Partizani to play in Champions League campaign as CAS upholds Skenderbeu's one-year ban

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 6, 2016 20:54

casTIRANA, July 6 - Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a UEFA ruling that bans Albania's champions Skenderbeu from European competition  for 1 year over match fixing allegations, paving the way for Superliga runners-up Partizani to replace them in the Champions League campaign.

"The CAS Panel in charge of this matter has dismissed the appeal and has confirmed the UEFA decision of 1 June 2016," said the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

European football's governing body, 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 decision means second-placed Partizani will replace SkÑ'nderbeu in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League campaign, while their opponents  Slovan Bratislava proceed directly to the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.

Partizani who were held to a goalless draw at home by Slovakia's Slovan Bratislava in the first leg of their Europa League first qualifying round, will now only play a friendly on Thursday noon with the Slovaks and face Hungarian champions Ferencvà¡ros in the second qualifying round on July 12 or 13.

Partizani said it also expects a reaction by Albania's football association over Skenderbeu's latest Superliga title.

Once the most successful side under communism, Partizani has been trophyless since 1993.

Reacting to the CAS decision, Skenderbeu who had dismissed match-fixing allegations did not comment the ruling but, said "The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart. We show strength by overcoming all obstacles."

Albania's sixth straight Superliga winners Skenderbeu had been provisionally included in the UEFA Champions League qualifying round draw against Hungarian champions Ferencvà¡ros   as they awaited a final decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport following a 1-year ban from European competition issued by UEFA on match-fixing allegations.

Last year, 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 ended their last year's Europa League campaign with a 3-0 home defeat against Russia's Lokomotiv Moscow, finishing bottom in Group H, but making history as the first Albanian club to have made it to the group stage of a major European competition. Skenderbeu earned only three points from a 3-0 home victory against Sporting Lisbon.

With the club's future now  uncertain for the upcoming season, two key players such as Arapi and Vangjeli have left the club and more could follow following the CAS decision. Top scorer Salihi is also rumored to leave the Albanian champions.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 6, 2016 20:54