Athlone game attracted bets in the region of €400,000

Uefa satisfied there is 'clear and overwhelming' evidence of betting irregularities

Uefa says that there is "clear and overwhelming" evidence that the events in Saturday's First Division game between Longford Town and Athlone Town were "unduly influenced with a view to gaining corrupt betting profits". The investigation to be carried out by the FAI next week at Uefa's behest appears to be focused on pinpointing who had knowledge of what was going on, rather than discovering whether something improper did, in fact, take place.

According to Uefa documents relating to the case, which have been seen by The Irish Times, "there is clear and overwhelming betting evidence that the course or result of this match was unduly influenced with a view to gaining corrupt betting profits.

“The betting evidence ultimately indicates that bettors held prior knowledge of Athlone Town AFC suffering a minimum two goal defeat, in a match which contained at least two first half goals, and at least four goals in total.”

Uefa, which works with outside agencies to identify unusual patterns of gambling on any game played in Europe, says that in this case it has looked at “primary data from a database of over 550 global bookmakers”.

No definite indication is given of where the betting activity originated, but several of firms identified by name are Asian or predominantly associated with that part of the world. MaxBet, for instance, is based in Malaysia while SBObet and BetISN are both registered in the Philippines and CMD368 lists contacts in China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam on its website.

The amounts involved are not confirmed but it has been suggested elsewhere that it could be in the region of €400,000 and certainly appears to run into six figures. A source at a leading bookmakers here said he was “astonished” by the idea of that much being bet on an Irish First Division game with that firm unlikely to ever take more than “a couple of thousand euro” in bets here on a match of that nature and scale.

That Irish figure would be the total on every type of bet available. In this instance, though, three very specific markets were clearly affected - how many goals would be scored in the first half, how many would be scored in the game as a whole and how many goals Longford would win by - with large sums wagered in each case.

The Uefa report suggests that the evidence of wrongdoing is conclusive with significant betting activity relating to late goals being scored in both halves defying all logic in terms of the levels of confidence being displayed.

“Entering the final 15 minutes of the first half (at 1:0), bettors exhibited a wholly suspicious confidence in at least one further goal being scored prior to half-time,” it is stated, “with odds failing to increase against all logical expectations despite the clear time constraints on this outcome occurring.

“Indeed, approaching the final five minutes of the first half, bettors remained entirely undeterred by the rapidly diminishing time remaining for at least one additional goal being scored, with clear indications that this betting confidence was not driven by on-field events.”

Longford scored five minutes before the break and betting patterns then returned to normal, something that Uefa contends actually adds weight to the suspicion that the betting patterns were based on a belief that at least two goals would be scored in the half but not necessarily three.

The same pattern was then replicated towards the end of the second half. “Indeed, such was the overwhelming strength of this entirely one-sided confidence, that odds as late as the 89th minute implied that it was more likely than not that at least one further goal would be scored,” it is stated, “which simply cannot be justified under any circumstances.

“The sheer strength of this betting is highly irregular and is deemed to be vastly suspicious from an integrity perspective, with clear indications that bettors held advanced knowledge of at least four goals being scored in total.”

It is argued, for instance, that the odds with MaxBet in the 89th minute suggested a likelihood of 54 per cent that another goal would be scored compared to a statistical norm of around 20 per cent.

In the event, Longford did score in the third minute of added time - nine were played after a serious injury had held the game up - and other Uefa documents detail the part played by a small number of Athlone Town players in the passage of play that immediately preceded it.

One, the club’s Latvian goalkeeper, Igors Labuts, has, it is revealed, previously been involved in games that were “escalated” (scrutinised) by Uefa on 17 occasions. The same is true of Latvian defender Kirils Grigorovs, while for another outfield player, Romania’s Dragos Sfrijan, the number is four.

No evidence of wrongdoing in this instance is presented against any of them and there is no suggestion that they are guilty of anything improper but all are bound to be interviewed next week when the FAI starts its investigation and Uefa is clearly confident that somebody has done something wrong.

Club PRO Aodhan O’Faolain said that he had not seen the Uefa document but that he and other members of the Athlone board had been “devastated” by the allegations relating to the game. “We’re just waiting now to see what comes up in the investigation and we’re going to cooperate fully. That’s all we have to say at this point.”