Footballers accused of match fixing secure injunctions against FAI

Igor Labuts, Dragos Sfrifan played for Athlone Town when suspicious betting patterns noted

Two professional soccer players suspended for a year following an investigation into match fixing have secured temporary High Court injunctions over the intention of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to introduce new evidence against them in their appeal.

The case involves Igor Labuts and Dragos Sfrifan, who played for Athlone Town AFC in the League of Ireland First Division during the 2017 season.

In their High Court proceedings, Mr Labuts, a goalkeeper from Latvia, and Mr Sfrijan, a midfielder from Romania, claim the new evidence is highly prejudicial, was not put before the original disciplinary hearing, and is contrary to natural justice. They say they fear they will not get a fair hearing.

The court heard the FAI has denied in correspondence that the material is prejudicial or that the players will not get a fair hearing. The FAI also said, under its rules, it is entitled to use the new evidence as part of an appeal due to be heard by a three person committee on December 21st.


The players were suspended after an investigation by the FAI following claims of irregular betting patterns in a game between Athlone Town and Longford Town last April.

Wrongdoing denied

The players, who deny any wrongdoing, were found guilty of deliberate actions in order to manipulate the result of a match by a FAI disciplinary committee and were given 12 months suspension from any football activities.

They have appealed the finding.

At the High Court on Wednesday, Ms Justice Caroline Costello granted the players interim injunctions preventing the FAI conducting an appeal of the decision of September 7th last.

The injunctions were granted on an ex parte (one side only represented) basis and the judge returned the matter to next week.

Paul McGarry SC, for the players, said they had concerns from the outset about the investigation conducted into the match fixing claims.

Given the nature of the findings against them, the suspension will have the effect they are never likely to play football professionally again, counsel said.

They have appealed the findings and the FAI had written to the players representative body, the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland, stating that under FAI rules, it was entitled to put evidence not used at the original disciplinary hearing before the committee hearing the appeal, counsel said.

Redacted statements

The new evidence includes newspaper reports, a redacted statement from a player who previously played with Mr Sfrijan, and social media extracts.

The players say some of the material is unverified and some footage may have been modified. They argue the material was available to the FAI at the original hearing but it chose not to disclose its existence to the players’ representatives or the committee whose findings are the subject of the appeal.

The use of new evidence in an appeal goes against “all forms of natural justice” and is a breach of fair procedures, counsel submitted.

The FAI may argue the overall dispute is a football dispute and, under FIFA and UEFA guidelines, players cannot bring such matters before the courts, Mr McGarry also said.

The findings under appeal impact on the player’s right to earn a livelihood in their chosen profession and this was not a football dispute, he argued.