By Constantinos Psillides
WHISTLEBLOWER referee Marios Panayi laid into Cyprus Football Association chairman Kostakis Koutsokoumnis yesterday, accusing him of blackmailing smaller football clubs in order to keep his post.
In a radio interview he gave Astra Radio, Panayi alleged that the CFA chairman had shown vindictive behaviour towards football clubs in the second, third and fourth division, that don’t support his bid for chairman when he is up for re-election.
“This is how he gets them to cooperate. This is the kind of person he is. Anyone opposing him finds himself forced to pay fines all the time. He has a tight rein on all the football clubs and nobody can really oppose him,” he said.
Koutokoumnis has been chairman of CFA for the last 14 years.
Panayi shocked the football world a month ago when he gave a press conference alleging that high ranking CFA officials are involved in match fixing. Panayi accused CFA deputy head Giorgos Koumas as the man behind the scenes and described Koutsokoumnis as a “strawman that does what he is told.”
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 and have since been charged in writing and released.
In his radio interview on Friday, Panayi also alleged that a referee who is married to a relative of a high-profile politician keeps getting appointed to matches, while referees that came forward and gave statements to the police on alleged match fixing had been benched.
The “high-profile politician” angle was present in Panayi’s allegations from the start but the referee won’t name him and police refuse to give out any information that is relevant to the case.
This has angered main opposition party AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou, who has been publicly challenging the police to divulge more information on the identity of the politician.
Recorded telephone conversations Panayi gave police have been leaked by media outlets over the past week. In the conversations, a man identified as a Cyprus Referee Association (CRA) member is heard pressuring referees into fixing matches in the third and fourth division.
Asked whether he had more evidence to give, Panayi said that he was keeping the best for last. “I’m alone in this fight and I am the weaker one. When you are in that unfortunate position, you don’t just reveal your best card,” he said.
Meanwhile, the whistleblower referee has some legal problems of his own. Following a Facebook post on Wednesday in which he named nine people as being involved in the match-fixing scandal and asked people to “shun them and spit on them”. Three of the nine have so far filed a complaint against him. All three are members of the CRA. They also accuse Panayi of harassing them and sending threatening texts.
Panayi responded to their complaints again through Facebook on Friday, saying that he was willing to give police permission to go through his phone records, claiming that he recently had a conversation with one of the three that proved his accuser was lying.