Cyprus imposes harsh penalties for suspected match-fixing

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) The Cypriot soccer association followed through with a pledge to impose harsh penalties on any clubs suspected of match-fixing after UEFA ranked the country’s championship to be among the worst offenders in Europe.

The executive board said penalties that come into force Tuesday will begin with a 50,000 euro ($53,085) fine for a first offense, followed by a six-point loss and a 50,000 euro fine for a second. Two-time offenders will be held back from moving up a division if they’re eligible. A third offense will mean relegation and a halt to all funding. Offenders caught a fourth time will incur a five-year ban and a 100,000 euro ($106,170) fine.

The penalties mirror those recommended by UEFA, with the biggest difference being that the Cypriot association saved the harshest punishment for clubs flagged by UEFA for match-fixing suspicions for a fourth time instead of three.

No action will be taken if a match suspected to have been fixed fails to deliver a result favored by suspicious betting activity.

Cypriot officials said rampant match-fixing in the national championship was possibly linked to betting in Asia. The Cyprus soccer association has received files on 75 matches suspected of being fixed since 2011.

“I believe the measures are severe and that the association will support them,” Association Deputy President George Koumas said.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the only way the problem can be dealt with is if authorities put their words into action.

“This is a situation that insults our championship and indeed our country,” Nicolaou told reporters. “No one should drag their feet on this in the slightest, and the Cyprus soccer association must act quickly and decisively.”

Nicolaou said strict penalties won’t be enough to stop match-fixing without giving authorities the legal tools to go after the perpetrators, including a law lifting curbs on wiretaps. The justice minister said he’s aiming to put a comprehensive anti-match fixing law to a vote in parliament early next year.