10-year European ban and seven-figure fine for club upheld after match-fixing scandal

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Albania’s Skenderbeu Korce have been indefinitely banned from UEFA competitions for 10 years and given a fine of 1 million after the Court of Arbitration for Sport have upheld UEFA’s initial ruling.

On March 29th 2018, Skenderbeu were given a provisional 10-year ban and a fine of 1 million for alleged match-fixing by UEFA. Skenderbeu denied the allegations and submitted an appeal on April 26th 2018.

Over a year later, the Court of Arbitration for Sport have confirmed that the initial ban and fine will stand after having rejected Skenderbeu’s appeal.

Skenderbeu won 7 out of 8 Kategoria Superiore titles between 2010/2011 and 2017/2018 confirming their dominance as Albania’s best team with current manager and then-player, Orges Shehi also representing the team with Albania at Euro 2016.

The crux of Skenderbeu’s match-fixing lies within manipulation of results for betting purposes accounting 53 games between 2010 and 2016 across friendlies, domestic and European games that UEFA’s betting fraud detection system (BFDS) picked up on according to The Guardian.

BFDS was introduced in 2009 in an effort to irradicate chicanery within the game after a decade of shame and it’s role is: ‘to highlight irregular betting movements, both pre-match and in-game (live) in the core betting markets by monitoring all major European and Asian bookmakers’.

It’s not the first time Skenderbeu have been under the microscope with allegations of this nature levelled at them, as they received a 1-year ban from UEFA competitions for the 2016/2017 season after the BFDS data deemed them guilty in 2016 and the Court of Arbitration upheld UEFA’s verdict.

Two years after their initial run-in with both UEFA and the TAS, Skenderbeu were back under surveillence after the initial BFDS data was analyszed further. A UEFA statement from 2018 suggested that information obtained by the BFDS ‘now suggests a far greater pattern of involvement by KF Skenderbeu in match-fixing. Consequently, UEFA will now seek a longer ban for this club‘.

Four games of note under review came from their 2015/2016 European campaign with Champions League qualifiers against Crusaders and Dinamo Zagreb investigated as well two Europa League Group Stage games against Sporting Lisbon and Lokomotiv Moscow, stated by an official UEFA release.

The most notable of which was a 2nd Qualifying Round tie with Northern Ireland’s Crusaders, where Skenderbeu had convincingly won the first leg 4-1 before leading the second leg 2-1 (6-2 on aggregate) with 10 minutes to play.

The report goes on to claim that during this final period of the game the data showed “some outrageous suspicious live betting” with figures totalling “a minimum of several hundreds of thousands of dollars”. Skenderbeu would have the ball in their own net four times during this period as Crusaders pulled the aggregate score back to 6-4, whilst also having two goals disallowed.

Crusaders’ goalkeeper Sean O’Neill took to twitter less than an hour after the game to express his concerns with the authenticity of the performance. The tweet was used as evidence in this most recent conviction.

During Skenderbeu’s Champions League Play-Off 2nd leg with Dinamo Zagreb, the Croatians were leading 3-1 on the night despite having had a man sent off, where the UEFA reports suggests “highly suspicious live betting which developed abruptly” backing Zagreb to score again, to take the tally of total of goals to ‘five or more’. Upon scoring their fourth of the night, when betting reopened, another set of bets came in backing a sixth goal to be scored.

The Europa League Group Stage games also saw unexpected betting patterns in tandem with the match progression. The Guardian reported that the data saw a ‘flurry of “exuberant and illogical” bets’ that the game would feature 6 or more goals with Sporting Lisbon 4-0 up in the 69th minute; the match would finish 5-1.

The second incident came in the final Group Stage game where Skenderbeu hosted Lokomotiv Moscow. With the score 0-1 to the visitors, the data detected ‘a rush of highly suspicious, and accurate, bets’ in the final stages of the game before the Russian side would score 89th and 90th minute goals, giving Lokomotiv a 0-3 victory.

Neither Sporting or Lokomotiv Moscow were under investigation for their roles in the scandal.

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