By Elias Hazou
CYPRIOTS have the lowest regard for the local football league compared to leagues in other countries in terms of credibility, research has found.
A survey carried out by the University of Nicosia gave the Cypriot football league a credibility rating of just 13 per cent.
By comparison, the Greek league got a 21 per cent credibility rating, Italy’s 44 per cent, Spain’s 78 per cent, and Germany’s likewise 78 per cent. The most credible league, according to the respondents, was England’s at 89 per cent.
The survey, conducted in June and released just this week, gauged people’s perceptions. It polled 1996 people aged 15 and over, of whom 962 defined themselves as supporters of Cypriot clubs.
Men accounted for 67 per cent of respondents.
Nikos Kartakoulis, vice president for university relations, University of Nicosia, said the findings should serve as a wake-up call for all involved.
The low regard for the local league could jeopardise the sport’s brand value, as evidenced for example from declining attendance.
On whether some referees were biased because they were following instructions from football clubs, 68 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement, 19 per cent disagreed.
And 75 per cent of those polled said the performance alone of certain referees had determined the outcome of matches.
Moreover, 67 per cent felt that some referees favoured one team over another because of influence from the Cyprus Football Association (KOP).
In a separate set of questions, the football association also ranked as the least trustworthy of the various football-related institutions, with 57 per cent of respondents saying they did not trust KOP at all, 30 per cent “somewhat” trusted it. Only 2 per cent had “a great deal of confidence” in KOP.
KOP’s executive committee and judicial committee did not fare better.
As few as 16 per cent of respondents trusted the referee commission.
Of those who said their attendance at games declined compared to last year, they cited fans’ behaviour as the chief reason, then the league’s lack of credibility, the quality of the refereeing, and corruption in football.
The majority got their football news from the nightly television news bulletins, and approximately 112,000 persons stated that they watched at least one local match on television per week.
The University of Nicosia conducts the survey every three years.
The findings largely confirm the public’s perception that the sport in Cyprus is crooked.
Marios Panayi, a referee-turned-whistleblower caused a storm last December when he claimed he possessed recordings, documents and other evidence proving that members of KOP were fixing matches, in particular those deciding which team would be relegated to the second division.
A subsequent police investigation led to arrests, and three cases have been referred to trial.
To date, and despite persistent anecdotal evidence of corruption in football, no one has ever been prosecuted in Cyprus.