Athlone Town under investigation over ‘irregular betting patterns’

Uefa contacted the FAI in relation to bets placed on recent game with Longford Town

Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Players, coaching staff and officials at Athlone Town will be interviewed by the FAI next week after the association received a file from Uefa that contained evidence of “irregular betting patterns” before and during the club’s game away to Longford Town last Saturday evening. The report has been passed on to An Garda Siochána.

There was widespread speculation on social media during and immediately after the game about the final score, which Longford won 3-1.

The FAI says that Uefa’s report “demonstrated the irregular betting patterns”, and that it has written to both clubs seeking their feedback on the game. It is believed that Longford have been asked for video footage of the match and that they have agreed to supply this.

Contacted by The Irish Times shortly after the FAI statement was issued, Athlone Town chairman John Hayden said that he was unaware of any investigation but the club issued a statement a little later in which it was stated that the board and management committee was “absolutely shocked by the contents of documentation forwarded to us by the FAI and UEFA”.

“The club absolutely abhors match fixing,” the statement continued, “and would never knowingly get involved in such unacceptable activity. The club will be fully co-operating with those conducting the investigation, and look forward to meeting with FAI officials next week.”

The investigation comes after months of speculation among the clubs’ supporters, local media and the wider League of Ireland community regarding an unnamed Portuguese investor who is reported to have put more than €500,000 into the club in order to clear pre-existing debt and strengthen the squad.

The upshot was that players from Latvia, Portugal, Romania and Uruguay joined a club that, last year, had fielded a largely amateur and locally based team. A number of Portuguese coaches and a French director of football were also brought in.

Despite what must have been – by the standards of a club that generally attracts crowds of a few hundred – a hugely expensive recruitment drive, results have been poor. Prior to the defeat by Longford, Athlone beat Wexford but that victory ended a run of eight games in all competitions without a win. During that run the club conceded 34 goals.

Along the way, Colin Fortune, who started the season as manager, was first sidelined and then edged out. His replacement, Ricardo Monsanto, also subsequently left with first team coach Ricardo Cravo apparently in temporary charge.

In its statement, the FAI says that it “has been monitoring the club since it received information from Uefa following an inquiry by FAI Competitions Director, Fran Gavin, prior to the start of the 2017 season.”

When Gavin spoke to the media at the launch of the league season he seemed cautiously optimistic about the investment.

“Athlone have a nice stadium and good facilities. We would like to see the project being a success but we need to wait and see. Dundalk’s success has showcased the league to investors in Europe.”