IN an unprecedented move, the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) has decided to refer the chairman of the footballers’ union to a disciplinary committee because of comments he made about the state of the game to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.
Spyros Neofitides confirmed the decision, which he saw as an effort to silence him.
He told the Cyprus Mail that he was in touch with his lawyers on how to deal with the matter, but he added that he was tired of the situation on the island.
“Personally, I am very disappointed by the treatment,” he said.
It appeared that no one was willing to take a stance on the matter, even the typically vocal politicians, who regularly commented on the most trivial issues, remained silent over the continuing sorry state of the game.
“I can’t have this. Depriving freedom of expression at a time when there is an effort to convince players to speak up,” he said. “In a democracy, each citizen has the right of freedom of expression.”
The CFA has referred Neofitides to the disciplinary committee over comments it deemed harmful to Cypriot football.
The Guardian quoted Neofitides said saying: “After the financial crisis, we had a big problem with money. A lot of businesses saw football as an opportunity to gain money through illegal betting. There are 350 players in the first division, another 280 in the second and for many clubs, match-fixing became a way of boosting funds. Players were often told games had to be fixed to pay salaries.”
The paper also reported on the findings of a two-month pilot programme, launched by the union, that allowed players to report cases where they suspected rigging.
Findings exposed the scale: 71 per cent of players in the second division and 67 per cent in the first division admitted that games were rigged.
“Most attributed the phenomenon to illegal betting, with 23 per cent saying they had been approached about match-fixing, either by the committees of clubs or during half-time when the only people who had access to changing rooms were club owners,” the paper said.
Neofitides was not referred to the committee as the head of the union, but in his capacity as goalkeeper coach at first division side Nea Salamina.
The CFA’s move did not come as a surprise. The association has also struck off a referee, Marios Panayi, who claimed that match fixing was widespread.
Of the Guardian article, the CFA suggested it had a clear intention to harm Cypriot football.
The timing of the article, its contents, and the manner the events were presented, raises reasonable doubt of the writer’s intentions, and it cannot be ruled out that they are related with developments in European football, the CFA said.