Court upholds Albanian club’s 10-year UEFA ban for fixing

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UEFA raised concern about the club’s ties to betting companies, and the influence of club president Ardjan Takaj, above. (AFP)
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The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed Skenderbeu’s appeal against a 10-year exclusion from European competitions. (Keystone via AP)
Updated 12 July 2019
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Court upholds Albanian club’s 10-year UEFA ban for fixing

  • Judges agreed to UEFA’s 10-year ban and fine of €1 million against Skenderbeu
  • Skenderbeu placed fourth in the Albanian league last season
GENEVA: The longest ban ever imposed on a club by UEFA for match-fixing linked to betting scams has been upheld by sport’s highest court.
The years-long case was resolved Friday after an investigation that implicated a former finance minister of Albania and the Skenderbeu club president, and saw UEFA reveal its staff were subjected to death threats.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed Skenderbeu’s appeal against a 10-year exclusion from European competitions.
CAS said its judging panel “found to its comfortable satisfaction that Skenderbeu was responsible for match-fixing activities” in domestic and continental matches.
The judges agreed UEFA’s 10-year ban and fine of €1 million ($1.13 million) “were proportionate and justified.”
The club’s appeal was heard in Switzerland in April in relative secrecy after UEFA investigators received death threats during their work.
Using evidence of betting patterns, UEFA investigators found suspected fixing of two Champions League qualifying games and two Europa League group-stage games in 2015.
UEFA also suspected Skenderbeu of helping fix around 50 domestic matches since 2011.
Skenderbeu won seven Albanian league titles in the past decade.
UEFA previously suspended Skenderbeu from the 2016-17 Champions League as an interim punishment pending a fuller investigation.
That one-year ban was upheld in a previous CAS judgment which revealed details of UEFA’s investigation.
UEFA raised concern about the club’s ties to betting companies, and the influence of Ridvan Bode, a former government finance minister, and club president Ardjan Takaj.
After one Champions League qualifying game against Crusaders, the Northern Ireland club’s goalkeeper wrote about his suspicions on Twitter.
Skenderbeu had a four-goal aggregate lead late in the second leg in Northern Ireland when the quality of its defensive play slumped, allowing Crusaders to score twice and win the game 3-2. UEFA noted the volume of bets placed on late goals to be scored.
UEFA suggested Skenderbeu’s “defending in this final period was a serious concern, with erratic decision making and a lack of effort displayed during the final minutes by several players. This collective defensive effort can only be viewed with serious concern given the betting patterns witnessed during this stage of the match.”
UEFA raised further concerns about a subsequent Champions League qualifying loss against Dinamo Zagreb, and Europa League group-stage losses against Sporting Lisbon and Lokomotiv Moscow. In all three games Skenderbeu was not expected to win.
Players were implicated by UEFA who it said gave an “extremely questionable defensive performance.” They included Bajram Jashanica, a Kosovo international defender who UEFA later banned for two years for a positive doping test.
UEFA has described Bode and Takaj as “leading persons of the Albanian club,” which had “links to betting companies by means of sponsors or several individuals.”
The case was a landmark for UEFA in 2016 for proceeding with a prosecution that relied so much on betting patterns as the main evidence, having cited “the lack of active cooperation shown by Albanian authorities.”
The 10-year ban exceeds an 8-year exclusion from UEFA competitions imposed on Pobeda of Macedonia for fixing Champions League qualifying games in 2004.
Skenderbeu placed fourth in the Albanian league last season, and was barred from taking a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds.


Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev dies after fight against Subriel Matias

Updated 23 July 2019
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Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev dies after fight against Subriel Matias

  • Doctors operated to relieve pressure from swelling on his brain
  • Dadashev, known as “Mad Max,” was unable to walk to the dressing room and was immediately hospitalized

MOSCOW: Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev has died from brain injuries sustained in a fight in Maryland, the Russian boxing federation announced on Tuesday.
“Maxim Dadashev has died in the United States following injuries sustained during his fight with Subriel Matias,” the federation said in a statement.
The 28-year-old underwent emergency brain surgery in Washington after his super-lightweight bout with Puerto Rican Matias on Friday was stopped after the 11th round by his cornerman James “Buddy” McGirt.
Dadashev, known as “Mad Max,” was unable to walk to the dressing room and was immediately hospitalized.
Doctors operated to relieve pressure from swelling on his brain.
McGirt, who said after the fight he “couldn’t convince” his fighter to stop but opted to throw in the towel when he saw him “getting hit with more and more clean shots as the fight went on,” told ESPN on Tuesday he was wracking his brain wondering if he could have done things differently.
“It just makes you realize what type of sport we’re in, man,” McGirt told ESPN — which streamed the fight on its ESPN+ platform.
“He did everything right in training, no problems, no nothing. My mind is like really running crazy, right now. Like what could I have done differently? But at the end of the day, everything was fine (in training).
“He seemed OK, he was ready, but it’s the sport that we’re in. It just takes one punch, man.”
Russian boxing chief Umar Kremlev told Russian media that Dadashev’s body would be repatriated home and that his family would receive financial aid.
Dadashev’s widow, Elizaveta Apushkina, also issued a statement, confirming the fighter’s death “with great sadness.”
She said: “He was a very kind person who fought until the very end. Our son will continue be raised to be a great man like his father,” she said of the St. Petersburg-born fighter who trained in Oxnard, California.
Dadashev took an unbeaten 13-0 record into the 140-pound non-title fight.
Dadashev, whose manager Egis Klimas also handles Vasiliy Lomachenko and Sergey Kovalev, turned pro in April of 2016 and relocated to Southern California to pursue his ring ambitions, eventually signing with promoters Top Rank.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum issued a statement recalling Dadashev as “a terrific young man.”
ESPN, which streamed the bout on ESPN+, also issued a statement.
“Our heartfelt thoughts are with Dadashev’s family, friends, trainers and the team at Top Rank,” the statement said.
Dadashev was rated in the top five by two world sanctioning organizations going into Friday’s fight in suburban Washington DC, an elimination bout for the right to become mandatory challenger for Josh Taylor’s IBF title.
Matias dominated, and after the 11th round McGirt could be heard telling Dadashev “I’m going to stop it, Max,” even as Dadashev shook his head.
McGirt, himself a former two-weight world champion, then told the referee: “That’s it.”