Athlone players to fight charges

The saga around Athlone Town is set to continue after the Players Football Association of Ireland vowed to take the defence of their members to the Court of Arbitration for Sport should the FAI find them guilty of charges brought over the weekend.

Following a two-month probe into suspicious betting patterns surrounding three Athlone games, the FAI will hold an independent disciplinary committee hearing on August 3.

The charges cited concern breaches of three FAI rules on manipulating matches, betting/gambling and bringing the game into disrepute.

Although the FAI statement only referred to members of the club, it’s understood three players and one non-playing member of the club are due to face proceedings.

In response, both Athlone Town and the PFAI expressed their disappointment at the developments. In particular, the PFAI, who have been requested to represent two players of the first-team squad, insisted they’d appeal any sanctions to the highest possible forum.

“The players have denied all wrongdoing from the moment they were made aware of this investigation and this remains the case. They have done all that was asked of them to assist in the investigation which they believed would be carried out in a fair and objective manner,” said the PFAI statement.

“The players in this instance were interviewed at length by the FAI and provided full details of phone records and bank accounts.

“Allegations that have been made against these players are of the most serious nature.

“No other ‘evidence’ whatsoever has been proffered. Indeed, one of three experts states ‘there is not enough conclusive evidence to prove in a court of law that players conspired to affect the outcome of the game and therefore breach the rule’…

“Unless there is further evidence which the FAI is withholding, basing charges of this nature on these two players on the subjective opinion of two out of three people, watching TV footage and hand-picked by the prosecutor, the FAI, is astonishing.

“The players will defend these allegations vigorously and will do so as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if necessary.”

The FAI were unavailable to comment.

Meanwhile, the deadline for Bray Wanderers to provide their players with evidence-based assurances on their ability to pay wages for the remainder of the season expires tonight.

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