Two Malta Under-21 players have been acquitted of match-fixing charges related to a game against Montenegro played last March. 

Kyle Cesare and Emanuel Briffa were cleared of the charges, with magistrate Joe Mifsud finding that plans to fix the match had been abandoned before the two players had ever discussed monetary compensation. 

According to the law, players approached with match-fixing offers have three months to inform authorities. In this case, police had pressed charges before the three month period had expired, the court found. 

Police had filed charges against Cesare and Briffa after fellow U-21 player Seyble Zammit had admitted to similar charges. Zammit was spared punishment in exchange for helping police with their investigations. 

Charges were also filed against St Julian's resident Ronnie Mackay, 34, with prosecutors alleging he served as the middle man in the match-fixing attempts. Mr Mackay's case is due to be heard on September 26, with his lawyers and prosecutors currently discussing a plea bargain. 

The court found that Cesare and Briffa had been subjected to intense "peer pressure" from Zammit, an unnamed "Asian" person and others which would have been tough for them to resist. 

Although Cesare and Briffa have now been cleared of criminal charges, they must still go through UEFA's disciplinary system. The Malta Football Association is expected to discuss whether or not to lift a ban on the two during a meeting scheduled for later today. 

The court cited Italian footballer Simone Farina's clarion call to fellow players in its judgement, in which he urged players to "stick to the rules". 

It also praised other U-21 players who had resisted match-fixing temptations and had immediately informed authorities of the approach. 

Clinton Grima, Charlene Grima and Stefano Filletti were defence counsel. Inspector Sean Scicluna prosecuted.