By Elias Hazou
Referee-turned-whistleblower Marios Panayi on Monday announced he will be running for chairman of the Cyprus football association (CFA), but stressed that whatever the outcome of the elections the current way of doing things must change.
Nominations for the post of president of the CFA end on July 20 and candidates should be proposed by four clubs.
Panayi, 34, candidly told a news conference he didn’t expect to win because of the “regime” controlling football.
And he slammed the big clubs – Omonia, Apoel, Ael and Apollon – for paying lip service to reforming football, criticising current CFA chairman Costakis Koutsokoumnis, but then either supporting Koutsokoumnis’ candidacy or not nominating their own candidate.
This indicated Koutsokoumnis would in all likelihood retain the post, proof that the system was rotten, Panayi said.
Koutsokoumnis has been the CFA chairman since 2001. He is again running for the top job, and his candidacy has been openly backed by Apoel and Ael.
“This is our football regime. Unless the clubs react, whatever happens to them will be their own fault,” Panayi warned.
The only club bucking the trend are Anorthosis, who have nominated their own candidate for the top CFA job, something Panayi welcomed.
Last December, the ref had gone public with charges of widespread match-fixing involving referees and the CFA.
He named CFA deputy chairman Giorgos Koumas as the man pulling the strings, and called Koutsokoumnis a “straw man”.
Following Panayi’s charges, Koutsokoumnis admitted that match-fixing did exist in Cyprus, but denied any wrongdoing on his part.
On Monday, Panayi again laid into the CFA chairman.
“Mr Koutsokoumnis has served more terms than presidents of dictatorial regimes, and he keeps on going. Also Mr Koumas, who should have already resigned after the investigations against him.”
Despite giving himself little to no chance of winning, Panayi outlined his reform plan for Cypriot football.
He suggests that the CFA chairman’s term be limited to three years, and once a chairman completes his term that he should be barred from running in the following two elections.
In addition, whoever is CFA boss must be a member of a football club, and the club he belongs to will not be allowed to nominate a candidate for the next two elections. That way, the position would be rotated among the clubs, helping to mitigate the sense of mistrust hanging over the sport.
Financial transparency was another major issue. According to Panayi, the association’s finances are basically run by two individuals: Koutsokoumnis and the CFA’s general manager Anthoullis Mylonas.
“It is these two who dish out the cash where they want, how they want, and whenever they want. They slap fines on the clubs but then return them the money.”
Refereeing was another malaise, said Panayi.
“Some of the refereeing instructors today…are former referees who were failures. How is that possible?”
He further suggested amending the rules on the suspension of players after clocking a certain number of yellow cards.
Panayi proposed that, when a player gets a match suspension, the player should get to choose which one of the next three games he would miss, in this way preventing outside manipulation.
“I know many people say Panayi is a loser, others say I tried to be clever and got burned. It doesn’t bother me at all.”
Panayi was appointed to just two international matches in 2013 and four in 2014.
Earlier, in December, he had claimed that he was told he would be relegated to the second division.
Panayi said he had voluntarily removed himself from the referee list and went about completing the evidence on corruption he started gathering two years ago.
According to the ref, this March – months after his match-fixing allegations – he had a meeting with Koutsokoumnis, who asked him whether he wanted to be reinstated.
He said no.
Panayi’s allegations led to a police investigation, and three cases have been referred to trial.
To date, and despite decades-long anecdotal evidence of corruption in football, no one has ever been prosecuted in Cyprus.