Former Athlone Town goalkeeper Igor Labuts has been found not guilty of match fixing after appealing his case to Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Latvian received a year long ban from the FAI in September 2017 after suspicious betting patterns surrounding a 3-1 loss to Longford Town in April of that year were reported to UEFA and prompted an FAI led investigation.
“I thought this day would never come” said Labuts in a statement, “It is hard to explain how personally devastating the last three years have been for me and my family.”
“I came to Ireland with the intention of making it to the Premier Division and I hoped to put myself in the shop window with Athlone Town”.
“I am not the best goalkeeper in the world but I thought with the right training and experience, I could improve my consistency levels and have a reasonable career in the League of Ireland.”
“This was taken away from me by the FAI. I understand completely that they had to investigate the match and I cooperated in full.”
“It was hugely disappointing to me that I was implicated without any evidence of wrongdoing. I was guilty only of making a mistake which some of the best goalkeepers in the world have made, or worse in some cases“.
“To be crystal clear, I did not manipulate, have not manipulated and never would be involved in manipulating a football match.”
“Integrity in football is the most important element of the game. Without that, we have nothing. My name has been dragged through the mud by the FAI when it was clear from the outset that there was never enough evidence to maintain a prosecution.”
“Since the conviction and consequent ban, I have been unable to obtain a professional contract. A footballer’s career is short and the FAI took away three years from me. I will never forgive them for that”.
“I have since returned to playing futsal and I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given in that sport. I still hope to return to playing professional football as some point and I hope this vindication will help.”
“Although the last three years have been very difficult, I could not have achieved this result without the amazing support of the PFA Ireland who always believed in me. In this regard, I would particularly like to thank Ollie Cahill who was with me every step of the way and Stephen McGuinness who was pushed me to see this through to the end and both of whom never doubted my innocence”.
“I’d also like to acknowledge the advice and support provided by my solicitor, Stuart Gilhooly, who represented me for no charge at all four hearings and to my excellent barristers Paul McGarry SC and Patrick Marron BL for their superb advice and advocacy in Lausanne at CAS“.
In addition, I’d like to thank Richie Sadlier, Pat Dolan and Dan Connor who gave up their time on a number of occasions to give evidence on my behalf and believed in my innocence”.
“Finally, I’d like to thank the panel at CAS who gave me a fair hearing and ultimately a fair result. It’s such a pity it had to go that far.”