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Omonia boss blasts "rot, corruption" in Cyprus soccer

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The president of top-flight club Omonia Nicosia blasted what he called “rot and corruption” in Cypriot soccer, claiming he's been approached with offers to “buy off” a match, referees, and even players.

Stavros Papastavrou said that some offers even specified the “going rate" or the price tag for a championship or a cup. He refrained from identifying who approached him, but he said “they have names and we know where they're from.” He said their identities would be revealed to authorities after “convincing” assurances for the whistleblower's safety.

Papastavrou said his club will send a report on what ails Cypriot soccer and its hierarchy to UEFA, and will provide a truncated copy to Cypriot police and the national soccer federation because his club didn't feel they can be “trusted” to keep its contents confidential.

He also offered a reward ranging from 5,000 to 25,000 euros ($5,500 to $27,500) to anyone willing to step forward this season with evidence of corruption and match-fixing. Papastavrou said 18 months into his tenure as Omonia's chief executive have dispelled his earlier perception that suggestions of widespread corruption in the sport were “exaggerated and overblown."

He said he has since learned about match-fixing, paying off players to under-perform, and of the country's underworld that's “particularly active” in the sport. Papastavrou said Omonia has also decided to set up a website to reveal referee mistakes as well as all that's “wrong, rotten and illegal" in Cypriot football.

“Our goal isn't to insult Cypriot soccer, but to stop the people that insult it," he told a news conference. He said Omonia would set up a whistleblower's email account, to be managed by a lawyer who will be tasked with sifting through the information and to forward claims deemed credible to authorities.

Justice Minister George Savvides said he spoke to Papastavrou and urged him to go to the police with any relevant information. “There's no chance that this government will cover up any allegation,” Savvides said.

The Cyprus soccer federation said in a statement that it expects Papastavrou to provide evidence to authorities to back up his claims. Papastavrou's remarks came as a delegation from UEFA is meeting in Cyprus with law enforcement officials who are probing match-fixing allegations. Police are looking at four second-division matches and two cup matches on which UEFA found suspicious betting activity.

Cypriot soccer has also been roiled in recent weeks by two separate bomb attacks on the cars of a referee and the vice president of second-division leader Aris Limassol.

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