Cyprus match-fixing on UEFA’s radar

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Police are investigating possible match-fixing cases after the Cyprus Football Association received notification of five suspicious fixtures from European football’s governing body UEFA.

The latest corruption allegation casts a darker shadow over the clean reputation of Cypriot football.

According to UEFA, suspicious betting activity was recorded in three second division games – Ermis Aradippou v Digenis Morphou, Onisilos Sotiras v Digenis, and Othelos Athienou v Xylotymbou plus two cup fixtures.

The first cup fixture was played between first division side AEK Larnaca and second division side Karmiotissa with UEFA assigning blame on the latter.

The other game was between Pafos FC and Ayia Napa, with UEFA not assigning responsibility. The CFA said the reports have been forwarded to the police.

Justice Minister George Savvides urged Cyprus Police to take swift action when probing the cases.

“I have given clear instructions to the chief of police and members of the force to immediately proceed with the necessary actions. I want to emphasise anew that the government’s policy is zero tolerance on all forms of corruption,” said Savvides.

This is not the first time that UEFA has sent in match-fixing notifications to the CFA, as the country’s second division and cup games are frequently drawing the body’s attention.

Some 80 notices have been received by the CFA in recent years, but police have so far failed to bring anyone to book.

Last year, the CFA suspended second division games for a week following several match-fixing reports.

It had then said that it would impose stricter penalties on teams involved. At the time the CFA decided not to allot teams involved with the €60,000 season funding.

A penalty which was not perceived to be a deterrent.

The Cyprus FA said there would be further points deduction and fines if a team participated in two suspect matches or more, with a five-year ban for clubs subject to inquiries for five fixtures.

The announcement followed an unprecedented move last week by Nicosia club Omonia, which had called on UEFA and FIFA to intervene and even ban Cypriot teams from European tournaments as “there is widespread corruption in Cypriot football”.

The Nicosia club claimed the situation is unlikely to change under the leadership of CFA chairman George Koumas.

Omonia said the outcome of several of its games had been tainted by poor and biased refereeing, adding that it intended to ask UEFA and FIFA to intervene.

Omonia was not alone in calling the top international football bodies to act as Limassol’s AEL had also called them to intervene, alleging people connected to the underworld were involved in Cypriot football.

Topflight side Apollon Limassol has also questioned the credibility and quality of Cyprus refereeing and has sent a motion to the CFA demanding that local matches are officiated by foreign referees.

Marios Panayi a former referee is reportedly preparing to file more complaints against Koumas whom he had named a few years ago as being behind match-fixing.

In December 2014 Panayi claimed that he had recordings, documents and other evidence proving that members of the CFA were fixing matches, in particular deciding which team would be relegated to the second division.

Panayi identified Koumas who, at the time, was the deputy head of the CFA, as the man behind the curtain, stressing that he had to be removed from the picture for the sake of Cyprus football.

At the time Cyprus Police had said they had investigated the claims, but the evidence was strong enough to take to court.