By Constantinos Psillides
THE Cyprus Football Association (CFA) has yet to respond to recorded phone conversations leaked by the media, where members of the Referees Association (CRA) are heard pressuring referees to favour teams of their choosing.
The conversations were leaked by daily Phileleftheros and news portal Sigmalive. In the bits leaked, persons identified by the news outlets as members of the CRA are heard fixing matches by promising the referees assistance with their promotion.
In the recording released by Phileleftheros, the CRA member is heard berating a referee for not favouring the Paphos football club in a match against Larnaca side Anorthosis. The CRA member is heard complaining to the ref that while he was told to favour the Paphos team, it seemed that he favoured Anorthosis. “Re koumbare (mate), we told you to favour Paphos and you were favouring Anorthosis. Every time you do the opposite of what we ask,” said the CRA member, to which the referee responded that he could not affect the outcome of the game.
The date of the match was not specified.
In another leaked recording, the same CRA official is heard giving instructions to the referee to favour Digenis Ipsonas football club, in a match that would decide which team would be promoted to the fourth division.
“We want to help Digenis out. The team has its own football field, so we want them in the fourth division. I’ve talked to my people in the CFA too and they believe that Digenis should be promoted. You won’t talk to anyone, do as you’re told and I will help you rise through the ranks,” the CRA member told the ref.
Digenis is currently playing in the third division. No team official has commented on the story.
In a third leaked conversation, the CRA member called up an assistant referee to tell him to favour Constantios and Evripidis Trachoni of Limassol. The team is to win the game or face the risk of relegation.
“This is an extremely important game. Evripidis has to win. You don’t care about the others. They are commies,” the CRA member is heard saying, adding that the referee of the game is also in on the scam.
The CRA member went on to promise that he would help the assistant ref to get more fourth division matches. To be more persuasive, the CRA member pointed out that it would be easy to fix the match because the game was not going to be broadcast. “There’s no TV, no nothing. The referee will be at the centre and won’t offer an opinion on an offside,” he said.
The conversations are believed to be part of the evidence international referee Marios Panayi handed over to the police, following a press conference last month where he accused high ranking CFA officials of match-fixing, especially when it came to relegation and promotion matches.
Panayi gave several lengthy statements to the police and handed over a number of emails, texts and recorded conversations that according to him proved that match-fixing is rife in Cyprus and that CFA officials are behind it.
His allegations prompted a police investigation that has thus far culminated in the arrests of former CFA official Michalis Spyrou and the chairman of the referees’ association Michalis Argyrou. Both Spyrou and Argyrou were remanded for three days in custody and have since been charged in writing and released.
Panayi identified CFA deputy head Yiorgos Koumas as the man behind the scenes and had stressed then that “if the umbilical cord connecting Koumas to Cyprus football isn’t cut, then we are lost.” Panayi claimed that current CFA chairman Kostakis Koutsokoumnis is a “straw man”, who is there to “do as he is told.”
Koumas was questioned by investigators on Tuesday, a full month after Panayi’s allegations. A police source told the Cyprus Mail that Koutsokoumnis will soon follow, but didn’t specify when.
The international referee took to Facebook to vent his frustration over the course of the investigation. Panayi claimed that one of the referees heard in the conversations –who obviously gave the recording to Panayi – has not been appointed to a single game for almost a month. The referee posted the names of nine people who he claims are involved in the match-fixing scandal, urging people to “ridicule and spit on their faces whenever you see them.”