Athlone Town continue to take hard line with FAI in statement

Club claims that there is no evidence for charges to be brought, just ‘expert opinion’

Athlone Town have released a scathing statement on the FAI investigation into match-fixing at the club. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Athlone Town have released a scathing statement on the FAI investigation into match-fixing at the club. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Athlone Town have upped the ante quite some way in their increasingly acrimonious dispute with the FAI over the handling of allegation of match fixing against a couple of their players and improper betting by a couple of members.

In a wide-ranging statement that runs to almost 1,500 words, the club accuses the association of mishandling the investigation and of effectively seeking to retrospectively justify it by “manufacturing” charges against those due to appear before a disciplinary committee at the start of next month.

“The investigation/disciplinary process is deeply flawed,” it says before asserting that “the FAI lacks the investigative abilities or resources to enable it to find evidence (if any existed), to support the most serious of allegations being made against the club.

“There does not appear to be any evidence presented to support the charges,” it continues, but “clearly confidential matters have found their way into the media and the club fears that a premeditated outcome of wrongdoing has already been arrived at.

“The entire process,” the club concludes, “appears to have been one aimed at manufacturing and creating evidence by way of expert opinions should no real hard evidence exist. It appears to us that somebody somewhere is looking to find some sort of wrong doing at any level simply to justify the bringing of a widely publicized investigation.”

Though it does not names its members, the club also criticises the make-up of the three man committee (Don O’Riordan, Tony McDonnell and Damian Richardson) assembled to provide an “independent” assessment of events during the now infamous game against Longford and whether it should have been exclusively a matter for the association to appoint those people.

“It also,” the club says, “amazes us that the process is deemed to be independent when the Football Association of Ireland are the investigative authority, the prosecutor, and the tribunal determining the issues.”

As to the allegations of betting on games levelled against two unnamed members of the club, the statement is scathing. The association’s rules may have been broken but, it is claimed, the amounts involved are tiny and clearly there is no plausible link to any internationally organised betting coup.

In one case, they insist the amount involved is just €34.06 and, the club drily observes, “we are of the opinion that not even our harshest critics would accept that several bets with Irish bookies totalling about €34.06 have anything to do with an alleged mysterious Chinese football agent attempting to manipulate games in several different jurisdictions to make a six figure killing on the Asian markets.”

There is, ultimately, a thinly veiled threat that the club may opt to take legal action over the entire situation and the statement concludes: “We would also like to point out that all individual rights guaranteed under the Irish Constitution as well as the European Convention of Human Rights trump anything contained in the Rules of any national or international sporting organisation or precedents set by the Court of Arbitration of Sport.”

Meanwhile, the players at Bray Wanderers have all placed themselves on the transfer list over the failure of either the club or the FAI to provide the assurances their union, the PFAI, had sought in relation to the financial situation at the Carlisle Grounds.

“For us as players it is simply about job security,” said the players in a statement issued on their behalf by the union. “We have provided the club and the FAI with ample opportunity to obtain this information but as we are now entering a third week of uncertainty, we feel we must take this action.”

The transfer window closes at the end of the month and many of the players are believed to have offers from other clubs but their action is unlikely to amount to anything more than a gesture as the club is not obliged to allow them to leave as long as it continues to meet their wages which, despite the recent uncertainty, it has continued to do.

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