PAOK owner banned, team docked points for violence
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The owner of Greek soccer club PAOK Thessaloniki was banned for three years on Thursday for his part in violence during a match against AEK Athens, including running onto the field with a holstered pistol on his hip.
PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis, a powerful Russian-Greek businessman, was also fined 100,000 euros ($123,000) by the Greek sports court.
The club itself was docked three points for violence that interrupted recent matches against Olympiakos and AEK — incidents that triggered a two-week suspension of the league.
The ruling gives AEK a seven-point advantage over Olympiakos and sees PAOK drop to third place with five matches remaining — unless the decision is overturned on appeal.
Olympiakos has dominated the league for two decades, but AEK is now favored to win for the first time in 24 years.
In fallout from the incident, FIFA said on Thursday a panel it appointed last year to oversee the troubled national soccer federation recommended the federation be suspended immediately.
This season has been roiled by ongoing allegations of corruption and political interference. The government this week ended a 15-day suspension of the league saying it received a commitment from clubs to back reforms aimed at curbing violence.
However, in its letter revealed on Thursday, the FIFA committee said: “Regretfully ... the monitoring committee is of the opinion that the current situation of Greek football with its repeated episodes of violence does not allow the (federation) to guarantee a smooth running of national competitions.
“The monitoring committee unanimously recommends an immediate suspension of the (federation) from FIFA membership.”
The federation said FIFA representatives attended a meeting of its executive board in Athens to brief them on their findings.
Federation chief Evangelos Grammenos said he was determined to hold clubs to their pledge to reform.
“The changes will take time,” Grammenos said.
Dunbar contributed from Geneva.