By Angelos Anastasiou
REPORTS of structural risks to the safety of spectators at Limassol’s Tsirion stadium have prompted a decision by the Cyprus Football Federation (KOP) to ban fans from games until it has received assurances that stadium safety has been fully restored.
In a letter to the three Limassol football clubs that use Tsirion as their home pitch – AEL, Apollon and Aris – KOP explained that its decision was guided by public reports on the issue, as well as a study, conducted by civil engineers from the Technical Chamber ETEK on behalf of the Limassol municipality, listing the issues and proposing solutions.
“The decision may be revoked only when we have received [stadium engineer] Themis Demetriou’s explicit assurance, in writing, that any problems have been fixed and Tsirion is completely safe for all spectators,” the letter said.
KOP offered the three clubs two options until the issue has been resolved – either play their remaining home games at Tsirion without fans, or hold the games in another pitch compliant with first division regulations. The clubs were given until Thursday noon to inform KOP of their intentions.
The decision comes at a critical point in the Cyprus league as title favourites AEL and contenders Apollon enter the final stretch, with seven games remaining. The next game at Tsirion is scheduled for next Wednesday afternoon – April 23.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday the stadium’s engineer, Demetriou, tried to assuage safety concerns. He said that restoration work had started and would be completed by next week, at which point he will consent to Tsirion being fully safe for sporting events.
But he was cautious in introducing the concept of ‘high-risk’ when describing games.
“The next game – Apollon hosting Anorthosis on April 23 – is not high-risk, so there is no problem,” he said. “By the time of the next high-risk game – AEL hosting Apollon on May 7 – the restoration work will have been completed and there will be no issues.”
Demetriou delved into the details of the safety issues the stadium presents – which other stakeholders had carefully refrained from doing thus far.
“The only safety concern relates to some cracks on the eastern stands, the risk being that small chunks may be removed from the wall and thrown into the pitch,” he said. “That is the only problem.”
According to Demetriou, while work to restore the stadium will cost roughly €2 million and is necessary in order to prolong its useful life, this week’s work constitute temporary fixes to minor problems so that events can be held safely.