Greek League says suspension of matches a "grave danger" to clubs

Reuters , Tuesday 13 Mar 2018

Paok president Ivan Savvidis (C) reacts by the pitch, after the referee refused to allow PAOK a last
Paok president Ivan Savvidis (C) reacts by the pitch, after the referee refused to allow PAOK a last minute goal on March 11, 2018 (AFP)

Greece's top division on Tuesday opposed the suspension of all Superleague soccer fixtures over crowd trouble, saying it threatened the clubs' very existence.

Greece had indefinitely suspended matches after the owner of the club PAOK Salonika, Ivan Savvides, was filmed wearing a gun holster as he strode onto the pitch to protest about a disallowed goal against AEK Athens on Sunday.

The game was abandoned and later awarded to PAOK following a controversial goal that had prompted the initial protests by PAOK officials.

"The suspension does not bring anything," Superleague President Giorgos Stratos told reporters after meeting Deputy Culture and Sports Minister Georgios Vassiliadis.

"It creates a grave danger and we are possibly moving away from our aims and objectives."

"The suspension does not benefit anyone or anything. The suspension cancels out anything positive that has been done. The suspension endangers the entire sport of football beyond the financial consequences."

Stratos said he had asked for the "quickest possible resumption" of matches but no date had been yet decided.

Greek soccer has been plagued by pitch invasions and violence on and off the pitch for years and authorities have repeatedly promised to clean up the game.

However, attendances have dwindled and this season only four clubs in the 16-team top division have posted average attendances of more than 5,000 spectators per league game.

PAOK boss Savvides, a former member of the Russian State Duma, was accompanied by bodyguards as he angrily walked onto the pitch at Thessaloniki twice, once wearing an overcoat, the second time with the coat off and his holster in plain view. He did not pull out a weapon.

PAOK were later awarded a 1-0 win after the referee reversed his decision two hours after the game and allowed the goal, while police want to question Savvides for unauthorised entry to the soccer pitch.

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