By Constantinos Psillides
There is no way the Cyprus Sports Organisation (CSO) can meet the January 2015 deadline set by Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, for the implementation of the fan card, CSO deputy head told the Cyprus Mail on Friday.
“There is absolutely no way we can do that. We have to first asses the cost of implementing the card, ask the finance ministry for extra budget, get said budget approved by the House of Representatives, use the money to go through a tender process and an evaluation process and only then can we proceed with actually setting up the fan card. I want to make myself clear; there is absolutely no way we can meet the January deadline,” said Kleanthis Georgiades.
The fan card, an identity card aiming at lifting anonymity of sports fans, was voted in August as a part of an anti-hooligan bill proposed by the government. Nicolaou, who strongly lobbied for the bill, had set January 1, 2015, as the deadline for putting the card into effect.
According to Georgiades, the CSO has ordered a project cost analysis, which will be followed by an official budget request to the finance ministry. If the ministry approves the request then it will have to pass the House of Representatives, where the bill has already met fierce opposition from the parties. If all goes well, the CSO will call for a tender process regarding the installation of CCTV cameras in top league stadiums –along with face recognition software- after which the fan card can take effect.
Georgiades admits that he has no idea how long this process will take. A month ago the CSO deputy head told the Cyprus Mail that it would take CSO the better part of the football season to see this project through. He had also said that approximately €2 million would be needed to cover the expense.
The finance ministry is in the middle of drafting next year’s budget, which is to be voted on by the House in December. The Cyprus Mail asked finance ministry officials whether it would be better to fold the fan card budget into CSO’s next year budget but received no answer.
Implementing the fan card was originally delegated to the Cyprus Football Association (CFA), which can cover the extra cost, but that decision was rescinded following strong protests by opposition parties, mainly AKEL.
AKEL MPs made clear that they voted on the bill on the condition that CSO handles the project. AKEL had previously expressed the fear that the personal data sports fans had to submit to get a fan card would be used by police to keep tabs on them. They argued that since the CFA was not a government body it was therefore outside of the Auditor-general’s scrutiny.
The prospect that a project he had lobbied so hard for being derailed angered the justice minister recently. On September 25 he issued an angry statement attacking all those asking for the CSO to undertake the fan card implementation.
“Everybody knew that the CSO did not have the means of implementing the fan card by January. As long as fan anonymity is protected, football violence will continue,” he said. “Some political parties, or individual party members, some media outlets and football teams caved in to the pressure from organised fan clubs… the pressure from that small portion of fans whose violent behaviour they previously condemned.”
The Cyprus Mail contacted Nicolaou’s office for a comment on recent developments but received no answer.