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Match-fixing claims rock Cyprus football

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Cyprus’ football reputation has been tarnished with corruption allegations, as claims of covering up a match-fixing ring emerged during a hearing of the House Ethics Committee.

A former Cyprus Sports Ethics Committee member, Charis Savvides, told MPs that the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) had recently sent an email involving red notices for 16 matches likely to have been manipulated.

Savvides said the games flagged include 11 matches involving Karmiotissa FC and five with Ermis Aradippou over 18 months, covering 2019 and the summer of 2020.

The 16 games had high betting traffic, especially from Asia.

Savvides argued that evidence pointed to a possible coverup, arguing that the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) did not take the designated measures to investigate the games.

He argued that, according to CFA regulations, the two teams involved in the reports should have been struck off the Association’s register.

CFA rules dictate that a club is demoted to the next division following three strikes, while four strikes have them scratched off the CFA register.

“UEFA reports show two of the 11 matches involving Karmiotissa were summer friendlies with Apollon and AEL.

“They are timed around the beginning of August 2020,” said Savvides.

Savvides said the first friendly (Karmiotissa – Apollon), there was a large number of bets that more than three goals would be scored in the second half.

The score at the end of the first half was 0-0, while the game ended 0-4 in favour of Apollon.

The second game was a friendly match between Karmiotissa and AEL Limassol which ended 1-8 in favour of the Limassol outfit.

“This was the only time that even bookmakers in Asia had removed a Cypriot game, as there was increased betting that nine goals would be scored.

“The ninth goal was scored with an own goal by Karmiotissa’s keeper in the last minute of the game,” said Savvides.

He hinted that the coverup involved high-ranking CFA officials.

He told MPs that in a meeting with CFA’s Chair George Koumas, on 6 October 2020, the Sports Ethics Committee were told that UEFA had sent no red notice for a fixed match in the past 18 months.

Savvides further shocked MPs with allegations that a UEFA official engaged in the alleged cover-up.

He claimed that he had personally received a phone call from the said official, urging him to ignore the notices sent.

The CFA has dismissed the allegations as “problematic” and “having no relation to reality”.

Plot thickens

The latest evidence of match-fixing comes after former President Nicos Anastasiades refuted allegations that he had interfered with investigations into rigged matches.

The claims were made by the former chair of the Cyprus Sports Ethics Committee, Andreas Papacharalambous, who said the former President had personally called him to instruct him to stop looking into the Karmiotissa – Apollon game.

Releasing a lengthy statement on Wednesday, Anastasiades denounced the claims, dubbing them as ‘malicious allegations’.

Papacharalambous had made the allegations during an interview with lawyer Christoforos Christofi on his podcast, ‘ Legal Matters’.

He had told listeners that Anastasiades told him, “To let it go. There are more important issues to take care of”.

The claims were rubbished by Anastasiades, who shifted the spotlight onto Papacharalambous, arguing that the former chair acted improperly, attributing the allegations to Papacharalambous’ ‘hidden agenda’.