Pobeda lose appeal against eight-year ban

BERNE - Macedonian club FK Pobeda have lost their appeal against an eight-year ban from European club competition for rigging a Champions League match, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said Thursday.

CAS, sport's highest tribunal, confirmed a life ban for Pobeda president Aleksandar Zabrcanec but lifted a life ban imposed by football's governing body UEFA on Nikolce Zdraveski, former captain of the team.

Zabrcanec and Pobeda were initially found guilty by a UEFA disciplinary committee hearing last April following investigations into their Champions League first qualifying round, first leg tie against Armenian club FC Pyunik in 2004.

Pyunik won the tie 4-2 on aggregate following a 3-1 away win in the first leg.

"The involvement of Mr Zabrcanec, President of the Club, in this manipulation was recognised by the CAS Panel and, as a consequence, the responsibility of FK Pobeda was also confirmed," said CAS.

"However, the CAS Panel was not satisfied by the evidence brought forward by the UEFA against Mr Zdraveski and was not comfortably satisfied to establish that he was actually involved in matchfixing.

"Due to this lack of evidence, the disciplinary measures that have been ordered against him by UEFA were annulled.

CAS said its ruling followed a two-day hearing into the case amid tight security last December.

"Certain measures were ordered by the CAS to ensure the testimony of some protected witnesses to avoid any influence by third parties," said the statement.

Matchfixing in European matches has become a major worry after German police last November dismantled a gang with more than 200 suspected members operating in nine European leagues.

Police in Germany, Britain, Austria and Switzerland cracked down on the ring, staging simultaneous raids that resulted in 15 arrests in Germany and two in Switzerland.

Officers seized one million euros in cash or goods as part of the investigation. The ring was reported to have tried to fix some 200 matches across the continent.

In December, UEFA president Michel Platini described match-fixing as the biggest scourge facing the game.

UEFA say that the monitor 29,000 matches a year in the search for unusual betting patterns.

Before the UEFA rulings, Zabrcanec had denied any wrongdoing. "You can win or lose, but that's sport and there was nothing controversial in our defeat to Pyunik," he told Reuters in a telephone interview last month.

Pobeda have twice won the Macedonian league.

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