Greek soc­cer League says sus­pen­sion of matches a ‘grave dan­ger’ to clubs

Tehran Times - - WORLD SPORTS -

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. Sav­vides later apol­o­gized for his ac­tions in a club state­ment on Tues­day. “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.

The 58-year-old Sav­vides, still sought by po­lice for ques­tion­ing over unau­tho­rized en­try to a soc­cer pitch, said he had no in­ten­tion of caus­ing harm to any­one.

“I want to apol­o­gize to PAOK fans, to Greek fans and to the global foot­ball com­mu­nity,” he said in a club state­ment.

“I am sorry and I had no right to en­ter the pitch in such a way,” said Sav­vides.“I had no in­ten­tion of clash­ing with any­one and I clearly did not threaten any­one.”

Sav­vides was born in Ge­or­gia of Greek her­itage. He has hold­ings in as­sets rang­ing from Thes­sa­loniki port to tobacco and me­dia com­pa­nies, many of them in north­ern Greece. 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.

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