Court upholds Albanian club’s 10-year UEFA ban for fixing

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UEFA raised concern about the club’s ties to betting companies, and the influence of club president Ardjan Takaj, above. (AFP)
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The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed Skenderbeu’s appeal against a 10-year exclusion from European competitions. (Keystone via AP)
Updated 12 July 2019

Court upholds Albanian club’s 10-year UEFA ban for fixing

  • Judges agreed to UEFA’s 10-year ban and fine of €1 million against Skenderbeu
  • Skenderbeu placed fourth in the Albanian league last season

GENEVA: The longest ban ever imposed on a club by UEFA for match-fixing linked to betting scams has been upheld by sport’s highest court.
The years-long case was resolved Friday after an investigation that implicated a former finance minister of Albania and the Skenderbeu club president, and saw UEFA reveal its staff were subjected to death threats.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed Skenderbeu’s appeal against a 10-year exclusion from European competitions.
CAS said its judging panel “found to its comfortable satisfaction that Skenderbeu was responsible for match-fixing activities” in domestic and continental matches.
The judges agreed UEFA’s 10-year ban and fine of €1 million ($1.13 million) “were proportionate and justified.”
The club’s appeal was heard in Switzerland in April in relative secrecy after UEFA investigators received death threats during their work.
Using evidence of betting patterns, UEFA investigators found suspected fixing of two Champions League qualifying games and two Europa League group-stage games in 2015.
UEFA also suspected Skenderbeu of helping fix around 50 domestic matches since 2011.
Skenderbeu won seven Albanian league titles in the past decade.
UEFA previously suspended Skenderbeu from the 2016-17 Champions League as an interim punishment pending a fuller investigation.
That one-year ban was upheld in a previous CAS judgment which revealed details of UEFA’s investigation.
UEFA raised concern about the club’s ties to betting companies, and the influence of Ridvan Bode, a former government finance minister, and club president Ardjan Takaj.
After one Champions League qualifying game against Crusaders, the Northern Ireland club’s goalkeeper wrote about his suspicions on Twitter.
Skenderbeu had a four-goal aggregate lead late in the second leg in Northern Ireland when the quality of its defensive play slumped, allowing Crusaders to score twice and win the game 3-2. UEFA noted the volume of bets placed on late goals to be scored.
UEFA suggested Skenderbeu’s “defending in this final period was a serious concern, with erratic decision making and a lack of effort displayed during the final minutes by several players. This collective defensive effort can only be viewed with serious concern given the betting patterns witnessed during this stage of the match.”
UEFA raised further concerns about a subsequent Champions League qualifying loss against Dinamo Zagreb, and Europa League group-stage losses against Sporting Lisbon and Lokomotiv Moscow. In all three games Skenderbeu was not expected to win.
Players were implicated by UEFA who it said gave an “extremely questionable defensive performance.” They included Bajram Jashanica, a Kosovo international defender who UEFA later banned for two years for a positive doping test.
UEFA has described Bode and Takaj as “leading persons of the Albanian club,” which had “links to betting companies by means of sponsors or several individuals.”
The case was a landmark for UEFA in 2016 for proceeding with a prosecution that relied so much on betting patterns as the main evidence, having cited “the lack of active cooperation shown by Albanian authorities.”
The 10-year ban exceeds an 8-year exclusion from UEFA competitions imposed on Pobeda of Macedonia for fixing Champions League qualifying games in 2004.
Skenderbeu placed fourth in the Albanian league last season, and was barred from taking a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds.


Brazilian Football Confederation confirms: Saudi Arabia to host 2nd Brazil-Argentina clash

Updated 16 October 2019

Brazilian Football Confederation confirms: Saudi Arabia to host 2nd Brazil-Argentina clash

  • The match will be held at the King Saud University stadium in Riyadh on Nov. 15

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil will take on Argentina in a friendly in Saudi Arabia for the second time in a year next month, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) announced on Monday.

The match will be held at the King Saud University stadium in Riyadh on Nov. 15, CBF said on its official website.

The newly crowned Copa America winners beat their fierce rivals 1-0 in Jeddah last year.

They beat Argentina 2-0 at home in the semifinal of the Copa America in July, a controversial match that left Argentina superstar Lionel Messi complaining the hosts benefitted from favoritism.

The Selecao went on to beat Peru 3-1 in the final.

Brazil will also play a friendly against South Korea in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 19.

Saudi Arabia is trying to promote itself as a top level sports hub.

Unified heavyweight world champion Andy Ruiz of Mexico will take on Britain’s Anthony Joshua in their rematch in Diriyah on Dec. 7.

Fellow British heavyweight boxing star Tyson Fury will switch briefly to professional wrestling on Oct. 31 in Riyadh to take on Braun Strowman in a World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) card.

In February Saudi Arabia hosted its first European Tour golf event while it will also stage a tennis exhibition tournament in December and next year’s Dakar Rally.