Albania’s Skenderbeu win first legal battle at Court of Arbitration for Sport

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 13, 2018 12:33

Albania’s Skenderbeu win first legal battle at Court of Arbitration for Sport

TIRANA, April 13 – Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) says it has turned down a decision by Albania’s Football Association that stripped Skenderbeu of their 2015-2016 Superliga title over lack of legal basis in imposing sanctions at a national level following UEFA punishment over match fixing.

The decision by the Ethics Committee of Albania’s Football Association was made in mid-2017 one year after CAS upheld a UEFA decision to ban Skenderbeu for the 2016-2017 UEFA Champions League campaign after results of more than 50 of Skenderbeu’s local and international matches were found to have been manipulated for betting purposes.

Albania’s football association stripped Skenderbeu of their 2015-2016 Superliga title on match fixing allegations, cutting their six straight titles to five, handed the club 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 in the 2017-2018 season when they made it to group stage for a second time.

The decision comes as a relief for Skenderbeu who last month were handed a 10-year ban from European competition by UEFA over match fixing and fined €1 million in the worst ever punishment for a European club unless CAS decides otherwise in the expected appeal that Albania’s best club of the past decade is expected to file.

The highest tribunal for the resolution of sports-related disputes says the Albanian football association lacked a proper legal basis for imposing the sanctions at a local level, making the consultation of UEFA’s Betting Fraud Detection System unnecessary.

“The CAS Panel emphasized that the present decision was not based on the lack of reliability of the evidence in the match-fixing cases.  To the contrary, the CAS Panel found that the reports established by the UEFA Betting Fraud Detection System (BFDS) were a valuable tool in the detection and subsequent sanctioning of match-fixing violations,” says the CAS decision.

“However, in the present matter, the Panel did not even need to examine the BFDS reports in detail, in the absence of any proper legal basis in the Albanian Football Association regulations to impose sanctions at the national level,” it adds.

The decision hints the legal battle Skenderbeu will fight over UEFA’s 10-year ban will be tough as Skenderbeu’s punishment is based on UEFA’s betting fraud detection system in identifying abnormal betting patterns on matches played by the Albanian club at European and domestic levels

Skenderbeu’s President described Ardian Takaj said justice had been made for a hard-earned title and he expects the same justice over the recent UEFA punishment.

“There has been a frontal attack against us, even by opponents in Albania. We are totally convinced of our innocence,” Takaj told reporters following Friday’s CAS decision.

Skenderbeu’s punishment is the harshest the European football governing body has ever handed to any club and chances are that the Court of Arbitration for Sport could in the best-case scenario only reduce Skenderbeu’s 10-year ban.

Back in 2010, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a UEFA eight-year Europe-wide ban on Macedonian club FC Pobeda for match-fixing over a single 2004 Champions League tie with an Armenian club.

The Korça-based team are the only Albanian club to have made it to the UEFA Europa League group stage, with two appearances in the past three years and have claimed six Superliga titles since 2011.

Skenderbeu are favorites to win this year’s domestic Superliga title with a comfortable 12-point lead over second placed Kukes this season, but winning the championship will not take them to Champions League or Europa League qualifying campaigns in case CAS upholds the decision.

A 10-year ban and a €1 million fine could give a severe blow to Skenderbeu’s future.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 13, 2018 12:33