THE cabinet has approved a bill to stop the manipulation of sports events, including match fixing, with provisions for imprisonment and fines up to €200,000, the justice ministry announced on Monday.
The bill, which for the first time defines manipulating the outcomes of sporting events as a corruption offence, is the government’s attempt to improve investigative procedures into match fising and to introduce more effective punitive measures.
The justice ministry said the bill was necessary following “a constant flow of files concerning suspicious football matches by the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa) recently, which affects the [local] championship itself and tarnishes the name of Cyprus abroad”.
“This phenomenon has been particularly alarming, and may have other implications related to organised crime,” the justice ministry said.
It added that the bill – that was prepared following consultations with the Cyprus Sports Organisation, the Cyprus Football Association (CFA), and the footballers’ and referees’ associations – is in line with provisions included in the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions.
Under the bill anyone who attempts to manipulate a sporting event directly or indirectly is guilty of an offence and is subject to up to seven years’ imprisonment and/ or a fine up to €200,000.
Those found guilty of bribing to alter the results of sports events could face up to five years’ imprisonment and/or up to €100,000 in fine. The same penalties apply for those who accept the bribes.
The bill also includes a provision “prohibiting direct or indirect participation of athletes and sports officials in betting while a protective net is created for persons who make complaints against attempts to influence [results] or of bribing”.
The ministry said that the bill also provides for the creation of an independent sports protection and ethics committee, that will be tasked with investigating information or reports concerning manipulation of sports events, including reports from Uefa.
Last year the CFA was forced by Uefa to put strict measures in place after repeated notifications concerning suspicious betting activity. The association had approved modifications to the disciplinary code regarding matches, with tough fines and long prison sentences for those found throwing or fixing matches.
But despite these measures the CFA has continued to receive notices indicating that match fixing continued to thrive. In December, the CFA fined two top flight teams €50,000 each after they were implicated in suspicious betting activity by the Uefa, while earlier in the month, the European football governing body had notified the island’s authorities of suspicious betting activity relating to another top-flight fixture.