Cyprus — The Cyprus Football Association is vowing to impose severe penalties on clubs suspected of match-fixing after UEFA ranked the country's championship to be among the worst offenders in Europe.
Marios Lefkaritis, the association's honorary president and a UEFA vice president, said that he was "ashamed and shocked" when told by UEFA of the problem's extent.
He said UEFA suspects six first-division matches and a domestic cup match may have been fixed since September. The Cyprus FA has received files on 75 matches suspected of being fixed since 2011, Lefkaritis said.
"We're among the top three or four countries that have the most matches suspected of being fixed," Lefkaritis told The Associated Press. "It ceases to be a suspicion and becomes extremely worrying when you have a file sent to you about a suspected fixed match almost every week."
Lefkaritis said most of the betting on the matches under suspicion has taken place in Asia. He believes that only those participating in the match can determine its outcome.
"The people who do the job are the players and the referees, who else? No one else can do this," Lefkaritis said.
Cyprus FA president Costakis Koutsokoumnis was quoted by state-run radio as saying that he's aware of one player who has been implicated in nine matches suspected of being fixed. He also said that he regretted allowing a team suspected of being involved in match-fixing to be elevated to the first division this year.
In an ad hoc general assembly meeting on Monday, the Cyprus FA said penalties would mirror those recommended by UEFA. They could include an initial heavy fine for a suspected first offense, followed by a point loss for a second and relegation for a third.
Teams suspected of match-fixing a fourth time would incur a lengthy ban. Cyprus FA board members will agree on the specifics at their next meeting.
"We have to act right away," Koutsokoumnis told the assembly. "We've reached the tipping point. Soon we'll have neither sponsors, fans or even a championship."
Cyprus football has been dogged by corruption allegations in recent years. Moreover, several bomb attacks against referees' cars and properties have occurred.
Cyprus' justice minister, Ionas Nicolaou, said legislation is in the pipeline that will help police investigators prosecute match-fixing cases.