Government suspends professional football after violence

The Greek government has suspended professional football in the country indefinitely.

The suspension follows violence at Sunday’s Super League match between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, as well as a brawl between club officials at a board meeting on Tuesday.

The league has already been suspended twice this season – in September and November – because of violence.

Newly-elected ruling party Syriza have pledged to stamp out the problem.

The suspension affects the country’s top three divisions.

“We have a new government who are looking to bring this subject up for discussion and implement state laws related to it,” said Super League president Giorgos Borovilos.

“The government wants games to start again as soon as possible, but for that they want to see immediate reactions from all of us.”

Fans hurled flares, rocks and bottles at officials during Panathinaikos’s 2-1 victory over leaders Olympiakos.

An executive meeting of Super League officials was then called off after a Panathinaikos official claimed he had been punched by Olympiakos security personnel.

The two Athens clubs are known as the ‘eternal enemies’ and share a fierce rivalry.

This season’s first suspension was caused by the death of a fan after clashes between supporters of third-division teams Ethnikos Piraeus and Irodotos.

The second sanction followed an assault on the assistant director of the refereeing committee.

‘It will make no difference’

Greek football journalist Panos Polyzoidis, who was at the Panathinaikos-Olympiakos match, told BBC Radio 5 live: “We saw things that are not unseen before in Greek football.

“Flares were thrown at visiting players, but there were a couple of provocative moves by the guest team, Olympiakos. Their chairman and manager went towards the stand and made some gestures inviting people to invade the pitch, and they did, about 20 people, that lasted for five to 10 minutes.

“It is difficult to say [how long it will last]. The league was recently suspended, but this decision indicates the government’s inability to come up with concrete measures to tackle the problem.

“It will make no difference to fans’ behaviour. Football-related violence has been going on 30 or 40 years and the state has not taken any systematic measures to tackle problem.”