Greece, UEFA vow to clean up Greek football

Lou ECONOMOPOULOS
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Greek Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L) with UEFA president Aleskander Ceferin

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L) with UEFA president Aleskander Ceferin

The Greek government on Tuesday signed an accord with UEFA to clean up Greek football, seeking ways to tackle the threat posed by corruption, match-fixing and other problems.

"We've taken a political decision to clean up Greek football for good and we are very much looking to your assistance in proceeding down that path," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin.

The declaration of intent signed by the two men watched by FIFA vice president Greg Clarke "demonstrates our commitment to make significant improvements and upgrading Greek football..." said Mitsotakis.

UEFA intends to produce a report within three months on ways to improve the administration of Greek football.

Challenges include finding ways to fight the threat of match-fixing, corruption and doping as well as refereeing issues.

Match officials went on strike in 2018 and threatened a strike in January after attacks on referees and their homes and an attempt by Olympiakos to sue five referees.

The meeting between the Greek government and world and European football administrators came two days after the league match between the country's top clubs, PAOK Thessaloniki and Olympiakos Piraeus.

The rivalry between the two sides exemplifies the challenges faced by the game in Greece.

The enmity has spilled off the playing field into the courts and the political sphere after PAOK chief Ivan Savvidis was accused by Olympiakos of acquiring an illegal stake in Xanthi, another top tier club, through a family member, a claim he denies.

- Outcry -

The punishment for multi-team ownership is relegation and PAOK hit back by accusing Olympiakos of trying to win the championship by having their rivals demoted from the Super League.

The Greek professional sports commission recommended the relegation of PAOK. But in an effort to calm PAOK tempers, Mitsotakis' government amended a law which replaces relegation with points deduction.

Under the amended law, PAOK would face a five to 10-point deduction rather than automatic relegation.

The dispute is still rumbling on and Greek football authorities have yet to meet to discuss the issue, while any changes must be ratified by global body FIFA.

There is bad blood between the clubs' owners, Evangelos Marinakis at Olympiakos and Savvidis.

Savvidis is a Greek-Russian tobacco businessman and a former lawmaker in Russia with the party of President Vladimir Putin.

He is locked in a bitter rivalry with Marinakis through TV stations and other media under their respective control.

In 2018, Savvidis caused an outcry after storming onto the pitch with a holstered gun on his belt to protest a refereeing decision.

Marinakis, close to Greece's ruling party, has been reportedly linked to match-fixing and a drug trafficking case.