Cyprus football tarnished as match-fixing hub

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Cyprus tainted as a centre for match-fixing has come as no shock, said Justice Minister George Savvides about a damning report by Spanish website El Confidencial.

“The report does not come as a surprise, it is clear we are in the middle of a storm and we have been for quite some time when it comes to match-fixing allegations in our country,” Savvides said after a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades on football corruption.

El Confidencial’s report alleges that Spanish police has given UEFA information that could prove that Cyprus’ 2018 championship and FA Cup final were fixed.

The same report said that European football’s governing body has asked the Spanish police to provide all information on match-fixing in Spain so it can clamp down on a similar ring in Cyprus.

Four games in Cyprus between 2017-2018 are linked with a match-fixing ring in Spain, involving Spaniard ex-footballer Jorge Larena who played for AEK Larnaca from 2014-2019.

The fixed games allegedly sealed the fate of the 2018 Cyprus cup as a trade-off for the league title.

Amongst the fixtures, El Confidencial alleges to have been fixed is the first leg of the semi-final for the Cup between AEK v APOEL on April 18, 2018, which the Larnaca team won 2-0.

Four days later the same teams played a league game with AEK losing at home 3-1.

In the second semi-final for the Cup with as the home team, APOEL lost 2-1 to AEK on April 25, 2018.

The other suspect game is the cup final AEK v Apollon on May 16, 2018, where the Larnaca side lifted the trophy after winning 2-1.

“As soon as I read the report, I immediately contacted the chief of police to ask for clarifications,” said Savvides.

He reviewed the police cases and “conveyed some messages, which I believe were made perfectly understandable”.

The Attorney General has already been asked for his advice on how the police should proceed.

“I want to make it clear that I had no previous knowledge of the allegations reported by the Spanish website. That is why I deemed it appropriate to call a meeting, to shed some light on the whole situation,” said Savvides.

He has invited political party leaders and the police leadership for an emergency meeting on 25 February to present suggestions, discuss and exchange views on how to prevent Cyprus football corruption.

APOEL, linked to the ring, said the report was “baseless” and dismissed it as “slanderous and lies”.

AEK’s spokesperson Kyriacos Demetriou said the club knew nothing about the allegations.

The Cyprus Football Association (CFA) said it had not been informed by UEFA of anything concerning the alleged match fixtures mentioned, nor had they received any notices that the games mentioned were fixed.

The El Confidencial report follows a string of notices sent by UEFA regarding Cyprus matches which were allegedly fixed due to abnormal betting behaviour.

Since 2011 some 85 UEFA “notices” have been received by the CFA.

Earlier this month, a second division chairman of Ayia Napa FC, Demetris Masias was arrested along with referee Andreas Constantinou on charges of match-fixing.

The chairman is accused of offering €10,000 to Othellos Athienou to throw a second division game earlier this season.

Meanwhile in January this year, Omonia Nicosia chairman Stavros Papastavrou claimed the league title could be bought for a price.

Omonia’s main investor said that the club would be taking a series of measures to expose allegedly dishonest referees as well as alleged bribery of players.

Papastavrou claimed that during his 18 months at the club he has been approached by “club representatives and people involved in Cyprus football in order to influence the performance of players and referees”.

He claimed the Cyprus Football Association was not fit for purpose.

“We believe there is widespread corruption in Cypriot football and the situation is not likely to change under the current Cyprus FA leadership”.