THE CHAIRMAN of the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) Costakis Koutsokoumnis came out with his guns blazing at yesterday’s news conference to answer to criticism directed at the Association, after the allegations made by referee Marios Panayi about corruption and match-fixing.
Koutsokoumnis argued that the CFA had never tried to hide anything, pointing out that any files sent by UEFA – flagged as “possible match-fixing because of increased betting activity” – had been handed over to the police for investigation. All the flagged matches had been made public and a list given to deputies, he said, years before Panayi had made his allegations. The Association had even invited UEFA to send representatives to Cyprus in order to give advice to the police on how to conduct the investigations.
None of these investigations produced results, but the CFA felt it had done its duty. It did not deem it necessary to carry out its own investigation back then, as its chairman is offering to do now, with regard to the Panayi allegations. At last month’s AGM, Koutsokoumnis had suggested a CFA investigation to the club chairmen and a decision was to have been taken at a meeting scheduled for yesterday evening. This sudden desire of the CFA to investigate its own house was, quite rightly, questioned by justice minister Ionas Nicolaou, who asked how an independent committee appointed by the CFA would investigate allegations directed at the association.
A perfectly legitimate point when we consider that the man at the centre of Panayi’s allegations was the vice-chairman of the CFA. Koutsokoumnis claimed a disciplinary committee by his Association would be able to take into account evidence that the police could not, given the restrictions placed on them by the law. Panayi could submit evidence that might not have been admissible in court to the committee, he said. This is not a very smart suggestion. Apart from the fact that nobody would trust the CFA not to cover its own people, an honest investigation that came up with nothing would be seen as a whitewash.
In fact, Koutsokoumnis gave the impression that he did not want the police involved in the matter, claiming that Panayi had not provided any primary evidence and predicting the police would find it “extremely difficult” to perform a successful investigation. He may be right, but what he and the club chairmen do not seem to realise is that there is no public trust or confidence in the CFA, a view that was reinforced by what he said at yesterday’s news conference. For too long, the CFA washed its hands of what was going on in football for its current interest in investigating allegations of corruption to be taken seriously.