Cyprus football embroiled in €10,000 match-fixing claim

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A Cyprus second division football club chairman and a referee were remanded in custody for eight days in connection with match-fixing after it was claimed that €10,000 was offered to throw a game.

Chairman of Ayia Napa FC, Demetris Masias 39, a former international referee and football agent, along with referee Andreas Constantinou, 33, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon.

The two are suspected of rigging Saturday’s second division fixture between Othellos Athienou and Ayia Napa to ensure the away team won.

Police took action after people connected with Othellos were allegedly approached by Masias to fix the game.

Ayia Napa walked away with the three points after winning 1-0 with a disputed penalty given on 96 minutes after referee Constantinou showed three red cards to Othellos players in the last 10 minutes of normal time.

After the game, some Othellos players had pressed the “Red button” online application to report possible match-fixing introduced by the Cyprus Footballers Association.

One witness questioned by the police claimed that Masias had offered him €10,000 in order to fix the result.

The court also heard that police had a written statement from the witness that between February 3-4, he had received a phone call from Masias asking to meet.

The two allegedly met in Larnaca where Masias offered him €10,000 in exchange for ensuring Othellos lost to Ayia Napa.

He told Masias “let the best team win” but the suspect asked him to rethink his offer and he would be in touch.

Masias allegedly said if he did not take the offer he would speak to the referee.

One of the Othellos players questioned by police alleged that on February 6, Masias, who is also his agent, asked for his help for Ayia Napa to win the game.

The player said that he told the Ayia Napa chairman that he was injured and not in a position to play.

During court proceedings on Wednesday, police said a player testified that when he had complained to Constantinou over his decisions, the referee allegedly responded: “We have to get things over with, as I will not be doing another second division game”.

Police told the court that towards the 70th minute, a referee’s assessor had left the stadium and from that point, Constantinou’s officiating gave the impression that he was trying to help Ayia Napa.

Constantinou’s car had been the target of a bomb attack on 17 January which sparked a referee’s strike.

He was also involved in a cup game between Ayia Napa and Paphos, which European football governing body UEFA had notified the CFA that suspicious betting activity had been recorded.

Constantinou is an upcoming referee and has officiated a number of first division fixtures.

The referee’s lawyer Sotiroula Socratou told the court there was no hard evidence incriminating her client, claiming that police were looking for a “scapegoat”.

The arrests follow the government’s pledge to crack down on corruption in football after European governing body UEFA recently sent six notices of Cypriot matches, it believes were corrupted.

Justice Minister George Savvides called on footballers or anyone who has information regarding match-fixing to come forward to break the “rule of silence”.

Advising caution, “as everyone is innocent until proven otherwise”, Savvides said that authorities had reached a point where they were able to bring in people believed to be connected to match-fixing.

He noted that “at the moment we do not have convictions, we have no culprits, we just have some suspicions, and we have reached this point because of the good and professional work that is being done by the special task force assigned to shed light on match-fixing”.

Savvides reaffirmed that the government will not tolerate any ‘cover-up’, and developments will unravel based on hard evidence.

The CFA said it was monitoring the situation closely and will meet Thursday to discuss the matter.