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Our View: Corruption in football goes much deeper than referees

THE CORRUPTION claims made by the president of Omonia football club, Antonis Tzionis on Wednesday was not exactly big news. Everyone knows that Cyprus football is dishonest, including Europe’s football governing body Uefa which has pressured the government to toughen the laws and increase the penalties against corruption.

Even the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) which had turned a blind eye to what was going on, despite countless warnings from Uefa about suspicious betting activity for specific matches, has been forced to take a tough stance at least in public. CFA chairman Costakis Koutsokoumnis declared at a meeting of the clubs a few months ago that “the party is over,” but it remains to be seen if any action will be taken.

Tzionis’ outburst is an indication of the commitment of the clubs, which make up the CFA, to cleaning up football. The only concern of the clubs is the allegedly bad refereeing decisions that cost them points. If a club loses a match, nine times out of ten, its spokesman would go on air to list all the alleged examples of the biased refereeing that cost it the match. This was the theme of the irate Omonia president’s outburst on Wednesday – in one match the winning goal was scored from an offside position, in another the player should not have been sent off and in another a goal was scored after a foul on the goalkeeper.

In short, all the referees were plotting, according to Tzionis, to deprive Omonia of points. The Apoel, Ael, Aek, Apollonas, Anorthosis spokesmen say exactly the same when their respective team loses – biased refereeing is exclusively to blame. They never make allowances for human error, expecting refs to be infallible, just like club spokesmen. The irony is that allegedly biased refereeing, is the least of Cyprus football’s problems.

A survey by the International Association of Professional Footballers, which was released last month, reported that 40 per cent of footballers playing in Cyprus said that match-fixing existed. Worse still, one in five claimed he had been approached and told to be involved in match-rigging, while 49 per cent of players, according to the survey, had two contracts to minimise their income tax and social insurance payments.

The “filth, stench, nepotism, cronyism and corruption” that Tzionis said afflicted Cyprus football could not be blamed on the referees as he claimed. It is the people running the football clubs that fixed matches, asked players to under-perform and cheated the tax authorities. Even if there were dishonest referees that took bribes to favour one side, who was paying them?

It is impossible to take any club boss, complaining about corruption, seriously, when he mouths off about the referees. Corruption in football goes much deeper than a referee failing to see that a player was in an offside position, but neither the clubs nor the CFA seem bothered about that.

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