The Greek government has put back the start of the soccer Super League fearing violence after weeks of bickering between the state, the soccer federation and major clubs.
The championship was supposed to begin this weekend but Deputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis said based on recommendations from the Greek police and the state-run committee for the combating of violence in sports the matches cannot be played before September 5th.
"In their recommendations there are compelling reasons to protect the public interest and questions regarding breaches of public order, security and disruption of social peace," Kontonis’ announcement said.
Kontonis and the federation have been up in arms the last few weeks over the administration of the federation and their recent decision to appoint referees on their own.
"The conducting of matches at this time would pose significant risks to public order and safety, since it is exceedingly probable that the slightest occasion can trigger widespread violent behaviour," Kontonis said in his announcement.
Last week three major clubs, Panathinaikos, AEK and PAOK said they would not participate in the league unless the federation reverses its plans to control the selection of referees.
"Panathinaikos states that it does not intend to participate in another referee fixed championship which with its current terms and conditions should not begin," the announcement from the Athens club said.
Panathinaikos said that the federation did not keep to its agreement with the mediation of European soccer body UEFA to change the way referees are appointed for league matches.
"Unfortunately the well-known powers and criminal organisations that have dismantled Greek soccer and every notion of fairness, are trying again, just a few days before the start of the championship, to create those conditions that will lead us again to become spectators of the same operation," Panathinaikos said.
AEK was also strong in their criticism of the federation.
"The championship with the same sinful persons, the same worn-out referees and the same conditions of premeditated crime cannot begin. Forget AEK! We will not be accomplices to a criminal organisation," the statement from AEK said.
PAOK echoed the remarks of the two Athens sides saying "we will not participate with those conditions."
"Nobody is surprised by the irresponsible attitude of the federation, nor is anybody surprised of further proof that certain people in the federation are looking at soccer for their asylum that will not be possible when they face justice," the Thessaloniki club said in a statement. [AFP]