By Paul Nicholson
February 19 – UEFA Disciplinary Inspectors have received anonymous death threats after re-opening a match-fixing probe into Albanian club KF Skënderbeu.
The death threats were taken seriously enough to prompt UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin to issue a statement that UEFA would not be intimidated by third parties and giving “100%” support to investigators.
“We will never allow UEFA staff working on these matters, or any other matters, to be subject to threats or intimidation from any third parties. They have the full backing of the organisation, including 100% personal support from me,” said Ceferin.
KF Skënderbeu were banned from UEFA competitions in the 2016/17 season due to involvement in match-fixing, a ban that was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a landmark case that accepted as evidence the data generated by UEFA’s Betting Fraud Detection System (BFDS). CAS ruled that the volume of abnormal betting patterns evidenced in the UEFA reports provided overwhelming evidence of match manipulation.
It was data from the BFDS system that prompted further investigation of KF Skënderbeu by UEFA who say they are now pressing for an extended ban for the club.
The death threats mark a public escalation in the seriousness of the match-fixing plague that is affecting world football, and the difficulties in investigating and punishing criminal activity by a sporting body.
Even in Albania KF Skënderbeu had not escaped sanction from their own FA, having been stripped of their 2015-16 League Championship win and deducted 12 points from last season’s total due to “conspiring to influence the outcome of matches contrary to sports ethics for the season 2015-2016.”
The club, which had won the Albanian Superliga six seasons in a row from 2010-11 to 2015-16, also has to pay a fine of 2 million leks ($16,660) to the Albanian FA. Skenderbeu came third in the 10-club Superliga last season and is one of Albania’s best supported clubs, based in Korce district in the country’s south.
In the original suspension of the club and the CAS appeal, it was suspected of fixing more than 50 domestic matches.
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