A row over the state’s refusal to sponsor the Cyprus Rally at WRC and ERC level over the next four years escalated on Friday amid allegations of misuse of funds, losses for the Cyprus economy and scathing social media posts from officials and stakeholders.
On Thursday, Cyprus automobile association president (CAA) Antonis Michaelides had branded the government’s refusal to underwrite the events as “irrational” and “criminal”.
Hitting back on Twitter, Minister Constantinos Petrides countered: “some have learned to exploit taxpayers’ money for their own purposes and without any benefit for the country. Antoni Michaelides, some do NOT represent the sport but represent themselves. And survive on political connections.”
According to a Deloitte report cited by Michaelides, holding the international rally event over 2022-2025 would generate €120.4 million in direct and indirect revenue for the Cyprus economy. This will be lost because of Petrides’ decision, Michaelides said.
And the losses are not just of economic nature, he added.
“With the acceptance of this agreement Cyprus would be among the 14 countries having the blessing of organising in its territory the world rally competition,” he said.
The finance minister had given his reasons for rejecting the sponsorship deal in a letter dated June 17 which was leaked by Michaelides. He argued that the cost of the event as per the Deloitte report was “especially high and insufficiently substantiated.”
Moreover, Petrides cited constraints on public finances and noted the disagreements of tourism ministry and Cyprus motorsport federation over the sponsorship.
On the flipside, Michaelides had revealed that his demand for sponsorship was backed by the president of the house finance committee Christiana Erotokritou and by Disy’s deputy president Harris Georgiades.
Crucially, however, in a scathing Facebook post -reshared by Petrides- Cyprus motorsport organisation president Manolis Kouloumas, outlined a series of alleged irregularities claiming misappropriation of state funds allocated to sponsor the Cyprus rally in 2020 and 2021.
Based on the above, Petrides in his Twitter post promised an audit, also tagging auditor general Odysseas Michaelides.
Importantly, in an announcement on Thursday, the Cyprus motorsport federation expressed its unreserved support to any international motorsport events being organised in Cyprus while noting that “our only permanent position as a federation and supreme authority of motorsports in the country, was and still is any funding for any international event must be effected via the Cyprus sports organisation and the legally recognized federation so as to ensure the correct management of public funds.”