The party is over for the betting mafia, Costakis Koutsokoumnis, the Cyprus football association president said Monday at an extraordinary general meeting that focused on the many ‘red notices’ sent recently by Uefa concerning match fixing.
The meeting followed Sunday’s announcement by Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou of measures in the pipeline to combat the phenomenon, which will include severe penalties of up to seven years imprisonment and fines of up to 300,000 euros, in combination with steps to enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement.
Apoel president Prodromos Petrides welcomed the measures saying he had no problems with the CFA recommendations adding he was pleased the last notice received designated responsibilities, that the announcing of suspicious matches was defamatory and that it would be better if Koutsokoumnis did not publicise them on his personal webpage.
Antonis Tsionis of Omonia said the public were beginning view football as discredited, and that his team would agree with all deterrent measures. He went on to question how a team, not involved in match-fixing was supposed to know, to which Koutsokoumnis replied that if a team saw the opposition was letting them win, they should compile and submit a report at the end of the match.
Loucas Fanieros of Ermis wondered whether the Uefa system knew who was placing the bets, saying his team had lost €57,000 last year because of the notices, adding his team would never receive another one as he had found a way to avoid them.
Koutsokoumnis, who announced “the party is over for the betting mafia”, said the association did not accept responsibility for match fixing being pinned on it. “Who does it? Is it not the clubs?” and brought up as an example the Anorthosis v Elpida club match last year questioning why should the CFA be blamed if, for example, Elpida lost so that a bet could be won.
Charalambos Manoli of Anorthosis said his team agreed with the punishment of clubs and the announcement of notices, as long as there was incriminating evidence.
The meeting came after the latest, and sixth notification in the current football season from Uefa about suspicious betting activity, though such notices are not considered evidence of match-fixing.
Nicolaou also said Monday that a bill his ministry was preparing to combat the phenomenon would be put before the parliament at the start of next year, as a matter of priority.
Last December, a whistle-blower referee went public with charges of widespread match-fixing involving referees and CFA.
In a bid to tackle the problem, the CFA announced stiff penalties last year, including relegation for repeat offenders.
A team named in a Uefa notification is usually fined €5,000 as a first step. A repeat will fetch the side a €10,000 fine, while third-time offenders will lose CFA funding.
Teams named in four notices have three points docked, six if there is a fifth, and nine for a sixth notice. A seven-time offender is relegated. None of the teams named so far in the notifications have been sanctioned.
Nicolaou said the harsher penalties to be laid out in the new bill, together with measures to lift the confidentiality of private communications, would provide an adequate legal framework for detection and punishment.
He said Uefa experts, during their recent meeting with Cyprus police and the CFA, pointed out that there were countries where match-fixing had been eradicated after phone tapping measures were taken.
The new bill will also establish a code of conduct to be adopted by all athletes and sports agents, along with the creation of an ethics commission for sports that would oversee the implementation of the law, take action and give instructions for preventive measures, and to prevent or deter the manipulation of results.
“The commission will investigate and examine complaints about violations of the law, gather information or data from persons who fall within its competence and if it finds that there are grounds for investigating criminal responsibilities, it will submit its findings and data to the attorney-general for the purpose of conducting criminal investigations,” said Nicolaou.
The bill applies to all sports and is not be limited to football. Its main provisions are up to seven years in jail and fines of up to 300,000 euros, he added.
Further, a law creating the statutory offence of bribery in sports will be punishable with imprisonment not exceeding five years or to a fine not exceeding 100,000 euros.
Other provisions to be contained in the bill will be the ability to ask the organising federation to postpone a sporting event if it’s brought to the attention of the commission “with clear information” that the event is likely to be manipulated, Nicolaou said.
The bill will also provide for the protection of whistleblowers who give information to the commission.
Sports federations and associations will also have to keep a register of athletes found to be involved in rigging games or matches where they have been convicted.