Greece's top football league will resume on Saturday following a lengthy suspension after a club president confronted a referee while carrying a gun. All 16 clubs have agreed to new anti-violence measures.
Greek-Russian businessman Ivan Savvidis, the president of PAOK Thessaloniki, marched onto the pitch accompanied by bodyguards and with a pistol strapped to his belt after a goal was ruled offside against AEK Athens on March 12. The goal would have been decisive in the top-of-the-table clash.
With world governing body FIFA threatening to expel all Greek clubs from international competition unless the authorities took strict action, the Greek government ordered the league to be suspended.
Now, the country's Deputy Culture and Sports Minister, Georgios Vassiliadis, has lifted the ban after all 16 Superleague clubs accepted changes to the league's disciplinary code, including point deductions and automatic relegation for clubs involved in violence three times in a single season.
"The Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport has decided to immediately lift the suspension of the Superleague championship as well as the Greek Cup," the Greek government said in a statement.
Other proposals, which were initially rejected by Greek champions Olympiacos and three other teams, include punishments for defamatory media statements which may incite violence as well as the responsibility for match safety lying with the clubs and not the police. The changes will come into effect from next season.
PAOK president Savvidis has apologized for his actions during the match which was abandoned and later awarded to PAOK – but both he and the club still face sanctions and court appearances.
Matches will resume this weekend with additional midweek games scheduled to compensate for the suspension.
PAOK are currently two points behind AEK, who top the table with 54 points having played a game more. Any subsequent point deductions for PAOK could therefore cost them their first league title since 1985.
PAOK have been suspended from the European Club Association (ECA) with immediate effect.
mf/mp (Reuters, AFP)