NICOSIA — A Cypriot court on Wednesday ordered the detention of a soccer club president and a referee for eight days as police investigate allegations that the two men were involved in fixing the outcome of a second-division match.
A police investigator told the court during a custody hearing that authorities are looking into the result of a Feb. 8 match between Ayia Napa and Othellos Athienou.
According to the state-run Cyprus News Agency, police obtained an affidavit from an individual who claimed that the 39 year-old club president offered him 10,000 euros ($10,911) to help Ayia Napa win the match.
The club president, who is also a player agent, is further accused of trying to persuade an Othellos player he manages to help Ayia Napa win.
The investigator also said the 33 year-old referee who officiated the match is accused of “provocatively” calling fouls against Othellos.
After the match, Othellos players used a whistle-blowers' telephone hotline that the Cyprus Soccer Players' Association recently set up to complain.
Both men face possible charges of criminal conspiracy, bribery and match fixing.
The lawyer representing the referee said police have no real evidence to justify her client's detention and that investigators are trying to make him a scapegoat.
The detention of the two men comes amid a resurgence of match fixing allegations that have roiled the sport and triggered a Cypriot government pledge to crack down on the illicit practice.
Police initially started an investigation last month after receiving information from UEFA about suspicious betting activity around second division matches and cup games.
Cypriot Justice Minister George Savvides said Wednesday that “there's no way” the government would allow any wrongdoing to be swept under the carpet. He said the fight against match fixing can be won either through the tapping of telephone lines or for the “code of silence” that has prevented whistle-blowers from stepping up to break.
Former Ayia Napa President Costas Elia claimed on local sports radio Sports1 that underfunded second-division teams are “obliged" to throw a game for money that'll help them stay afloat. Although he said he'd never thrown a game, he claimed the practice “is common knowledge."
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades last week announced a raft of additional measures to fight match fixing including setting up of an independent judicial authority to adjudicate sport-related criminal cases.