A history of match-fixing allegations in the League of Ireland

This morning’s arrests by Gardaí of 10 men in relation to alleged match-fixing isn’t the first time for a gambling story to rock the League of Ireland
A history of match-fixing allegations in the League of Ireland

The FAI have previously investigated alleged match fixing in the League of Ireland. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

This isn’t the first time for a gambling story to rock the League of Ireland.

Gary Dempsey was hit with a two-match ban in 2008 for admitting he waged a small bet on his St Patrick’s Athletic side to lose. He was sidelined with an injury at the time.

Five years later, Colm James received an 18-month suspension from the FAI for breaching rules relating to “bringing the game into disrepute”, “corruption” and “betting/gambling”. 

Their decision followed what the association said was a “detailed” two-month investigation in conjunction with Uefa, Fifa and the Gardaí.

The FAI failed to find sufficient evidence to confer any charges arising from suspicious betting around a friendly between Bray Wanderers and Waterford in 2017.

Despite Gardaí visiting Bray’s training ground to examine mobile phones of players, and 25 interviews being held, the case was brought to a close.

“The club fully cooperated with the FAI and Garda Siochana in the course of their investigations,” Bray said in a statement.

“The club, the players, the management and coaching staff have had a stressful and difficult five months since these allegations broke.” 

The most high-profile and protracted case involved Athlone Town players Igor Labuts and Dragos Sfrijan, both slapped with 12 month bans in 2017.

The pair, from Latvia and Romania respectively, were found guilty by the FAI of match-fixing. Uefa had alerted the FAI to irregular betting patterns for Athlone’s 3-2 defeat against Longford Town.

Labuts, Athlone’s goalkeeper, vowed to clear his name and after losing the initial appeals had in 2020 had the verdict overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Quashing the conviction, CAS awarded the player 3,000 Swiss francs (€2,800) and a portion of his legal costs.

In its ruling, CAS placed great weight on the opinion of former international Richard Sadlier when assessing the culpability of Labuts in two of the three goals conceded by Athlone.

Sadlier had been nominated by the defendant’s representatives, led by the Players Football Association of Ireland (PFAI), to apply his expert analysis to the video footage of the goals. The FAI’s case had centred on the views of ex-LOI manager Damien Richardson and former player Tony McDonnell.

"I thought this day would never come," Labuts said after being eventually cleared of wrongdoing.

“It is hard to explain how personally devastating the last three years have been for me and my family. I came to Ireland with the intention of making it to the Premier Division and I hoped to put myself in the shop window with Athlone Town.

“I am not the best goalkeeper in the world, but I thought with the right training and experience, I could improve my consistency levels and have a reasonable career in the League of Ireland.

“This was taken away from me by the FAI. I understand completely that they had to investigate the match and I cooperated in full. It was hugely disappointing to me that I was implicated without any evidence of wrongdoing. I was guilty only of making a mistake which some of the best goalkeepers in the world have made, or worse in some cases.”

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