Skenderbeu stripped of championship title over match-fixing

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 26, 2017 11:28

Skenderbeu stripped of championship title over match-fixing

TIRANA, June 26 – Albania’s KF Skenderbeu have been stripped of their 2015-2016 Superliga title on match fixing allegations, cutting their six straight titles to five. The decision handed last weekend by the Ethics Commission of the Albanian Football Association came as part of a UEFA probe into Skenderbeu over match fixing allegations at European and domestic competitions.

In addition to stripping the club who has been dominating Albanian football in the past decade of one championship title, the Ethics Committee also handed Skenderbeu a 2 million lek (€15,000) fine and deducted 12 points from their 2016-2017 Superliga campaign with no effect for their third-place and Europa League participation this year due to their huge advantage over fourth-placed Luftetari.

Skenderbeu also faced the threat of being relegated, but the Ethics Committee argued such punishment had not been handed by UEFA itself.

Last year, Europe’s football governing body, UEFA, banned Skenderbeu for one year from European competition on match-fixing allegations in their 2015-2016 Europa League campaign when they became the first ever Albanian club to make it to the group stage of a major European competition. The decision was also upheld by Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport after an appeal filed by Skenderbeu.

UEFA welcomed the decision saying “the case affirms the reliability of UEFA’s betting fraud detection system in identifying abnormal betting patterns on matches played by the Albanian club at European and domestic levels.”

The UEFA probe came after Brussels-based Federbet gaming anti-corruption organization, cast match-fixing doubts on several of Skenderbeu fixtures, including the UEFA Champions League qualifying round with Northern Ireland’s Crusaders and UEFA group stage matches with Lokomotiv Moscow, Dinamo Zagreb and Sporting Lisbon. Skenderbeu was also suspected of having fixed several domestic matches, which apparently led to their latest punishment by the Albanian Football Association.

Reacting to the ruling, Skenderbeu described the punishment as unprecedented and not based on evidence, warning that they would initiate an appeal with Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“Skenderbeu assures fans that this infringement and threat made by the Ethics Committee, especially by stripping us of a championship title which UEFA itself considered well-deserved, will be fully appealed as we are confident in our incontrovertible innocence,” the club said in a statement.

In the upcoming UEFA Europa league campaign, Skenderbeu was the only Albanian club that had been seeded in the draw thanks to their Europa League participation in 2015-16.

Skenderbeu, whose six-year domination of Albanian football came to an end only this year when they finished third, will face an easy test against Andorra’s Sant Julia in the first qualifying round.

The Snow Wolves will play their first-leg match on June 29 before traveling to Andorra on July 6, in what is expected to be an easy first round qualification.

Partizani, who finished second in the past two seasons, are now hopeful they will be crowned champions by another Football Association decision following more than two decades of trophyless seasons.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 26, 2017 11:28