CFA boss admits probe glitch, lashes out at politicians
By Constantinos Psillides
CYPRUS Football Association (CFA) chairman Costakis Koutsokoumnis on Friday lashed out at politicians demanding his resignation over the match-fixing allegations, arguing that he would not take lessons in morality from people who had destroyed the economy.
During a press conference, Koutsokoumnis attempted for the first time to comprehensively address all issues raised by international referee Marios Panayi, who in December shocked the football world by claiming that he had evidence proving extensive match-fixing by CFA officials in the island’s top league.
“Have we made mistakes? Of course. Have our decisions triggered prejudice against the body? Yes. Have we failed at times to convey our message? Yes. Have we placed our trust in the wrong people when it came to posts in CFA? Of course. Nobody is infallible. But we are not the ones who approved a haircut, or driven youth unemployment to 40 per cent, cut wages or fired people. No. We do not take lessons from politicians that brought this island to the sorry state it is today,” said Koutsokoumnis.
The CFA chairman was lashing out against MPs who had previously asked him to step down in light of Panayi’s allegations. One of the MPs, ruling party DISY’s Nicos Tornaritis issued a laconic, one-line response in the form of a Cypriot proverb to Koutsokoumnis’ criticism: “He who feels no shame owns the world.”
The CFA chairman also claimed that the football governing body was an example of a well-governed organisation, “since it costs the taxpayers absolutely nothing. Politicians should focus on organisations they are directly responsible for.”
While the CFA is an independent body and receives no official state funding, the football clubs that comprise it, do. Additionally, football clubs have been accommodated by the state regarding tax issues. Also, the company that holds the lion’s share when it comes to TV rights is Cytavision, a subsidiary of semi-government CyTA, the island’s telecommunications authority.
The Cytavision deal has long been in the sights of Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides. The Auditor-general had demanded Cytavision hand in documents outlining the deal, to which the company has yet to comply.
Cytavision was the focus of a Q&A following the press briefing, since the person Panayi named as being behind the match-fixing was the CFA’s deputy head Giorgos Koumas. According to Koutsokoumnis, Koumas is the person assigned by the CFA to head the negotiations for TV rights. This is despite the fact that Koumas appears to be involved in a TV production company.
To that extent, Koutsokoumnis was asked by reporters to comment on the fact that “a high-ranking official is making money out of the TV rights deal and that a portion of that money is transferred to an offshore account.”
Koutsokoumnis pointed out that the Auditor-general’s report had to do with wrongdoings in Cytavision and not with the CFA official. “Professional football in Cyprus has nothing to do with these allegations. This is criticism which is directed at Cytavision, not the CFA,” he said.
Pressured to comment on Koumas’ involvement, Koutsokoumnis pointed out that Koumas’ dealings had been a subject of a previous probe by the supreme judicial body for sports (ADEA) which found nothing suspicious.
“Now, if the man’s occupation affects his work with the CFA in any way, then this is something an investigative committee should have a look at,” noted the CFA chairman.
Koutsokoumnis also talked about Panayi, saying though he supported the referee’s initiative, allegations pointed towards a lack of evidence.
“We are all in the same trenches here. Every one of us stands next to Panayi in the fight against match-fixing and corruption. But it’s important to remember that it’s the CFA that leads the charge against match-fixing, not Panayi,” said Koutsokoumnis, claiming that CFA had been trying to combat match-fixing since the first day it receive a red dossier relating to a match.
‘Yellow’ and ‘red’ dossiers are matches flagged for suspicious betting behaviour, which may indicate that they were fixed. While UEFA has flagged a number of matches in Cyprus over the years, not a single case has ever found its way to court. In total, 31 such cases have been officially reported by UEFA. The police deemed 16 of them as “impossible to investigate”, while the rest have been forwarded to the legal services.
The CFA said that the police investigation would probably end up nowhere, due to lack of sufficient evidence.
It is understood that much of the information Panayi has supplied comprises audio recordings and emails. Because a great deal of this information was considered as hearsay, it cannot be used in court. Panayi repeatedly promised that if the police probe is not concluded, he will leak the evidence himself.
The CFA chairman criticised the referee, saying that if what he claims is true, he should have been approached at some point and asked to favour a team. “How come he wasn’t? Because if he was, that would be sufficient enough to build a case in court,” he said.
Koutsokoumnis added that he would not stoop to Panayi’s level and question his manliness. Panayi had publicly demanded of Koutsokoumnis to give information on match-fixing, “if he is man enough”.
The Cyprus Mail contacted Panayi to get a response on the Koutsokoumnis press conference. “No comment”, was the international referee’s response.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou expressed his dissatisfaction over Koutsokoumnis’ certainty over the police investigation. “How does he know what is going to happen, since the case is still open and the investigation is still underway? I want to assure everyone once more that we will leave no stone unturned when it comes to this case,” Nicolaou reiterated.
The Justice minister also had a war of words with Koutsokoumnis over an independent committee appointed by CFA, that would be tasked with investigating Panayi’s allegations. “Why would we want that? The authority in charge of investigating cases like these is the police and police investigators are hard at work doing just that. What purpose will an additional, unofficial investigation serve?” wondered Nicolaou.
Late on Friday night, Koutsokoumnis refuted claims that an investigative committee was expected to be announced following a CFA officials’ meeting with representatives from the top league’s football clubs, adding that the police probe should take its course.