The PFA Ireland have been asked to represent two professional players who play for Athlone Town and who have been accused of being in breach of FAI Rule 99 (Bringing the game into disrepute) FAI Rule 105 (Manipulating matches) and FAI Rule 106 (Betting/Gambling). The allegations arise out of a match played against Longford Town on 29 April 2017.
At the outset, it's important to note that both this association and the players we represent abhor concept of match manipulation and all were anxious to cooperate fully in the investigation which we accept had to take place. The players in this instance were interviewed at length by the FAI and provided full details of phone records and bank accounts.
The players have denied all wrongdoing from the moment they were made aware of this investigation and this remains the case. They have done all that was asked of them to assist in the investigation which they believed would be carried out in a fair and objective manner.
It is therefore with huge disappointment that they have been charged without it appears any evidence. The sole basis for the charges are that there were suspicious betting patterns and a panel of three experts were of the opinion that some of players actions were suspicious. No other "evidence" whatsoever has been proffered. Indeed one of three experts states "there is not enough conclusive evidence to prove in a court of law that players conspired to affect the outcome of the game and therefore breach Rule 105".
The allegations that have been made against these players are of the most serious nature. There is nothing more damaging to a players integrity. For such charges to be levelled, the evidence against them should be overwhelming. Unless there is further evidence which the FAI is withholding, basing charges of this nature on these two players on the subjective opinion of two out of three people, watching TV footage and hand picked by the prosecutor, the FAI, is astonishing.
The players will defend these allegations vigorously and will do so as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport if necessary. The integrity of our sport must be protected but not at the cost of the basic legal concepts of fairness, natural justice and civil liberties.