Nineteen hours before the kickoff of what has been billed as the title decider between PAOK and AEK, the Greek soccer federation’s appeals committee surprisingly canceled the three-point deduction imposed on PAOK for the match against Olympiakos and allowed the Sunday evening derby to take place with fans at the Toumba stands.
In a shocking verdict that is seen to undermine the credibility of the league, EPO’s Appeals Committee announced after midnight on Saturday that although it holds PAOK responsible for the till roll that struck Olympiakos manager Oscar Garcia before the start of the PAOK vs Olympiakos game in February at Toumba, the penalty imposed should not refer to the match being abandoned but canceled, so the points deduction and the stadium ban should not apply.
Although the verdict does give Olympiakos a 3-0 win in that game, it accepts PAOK’s appeal on the decision of the Disciplinary Committee of the Super League and cancels the deduction of three points as well as the two-game stadium ban. The fine of 30,000 euros remains, in what appears to be an unprecedented decision.
The verdict means PAOK’s distance from Super League leader AEK came down from five points to two and that the Thessaloniki club was given 19 hours to issue and sell tickets for the derby against AEK at 7.30 p.m. on Sunday.
PAOK is actually not happy with the decision and states it will recourse to the arbitration court in order for the match to be played instead of having all three points given to Olympiakos.
Therefore PAOK is given the chance to beat AEK with the support of its fans (no AEK fans are allowed in the stadium) and move to the top of the table with five games left to play.
This is the first time such a blatant intervention in the league’s proceedings has taken place in the last three decades, since 1988, when the then deputy sports minister Sifis Valyrakis canceled a point deduction imposed on Larissa for the doping offense of one of its players, allowing the Thessaly club to win the league title.
Olympiakos issued a very strong statement on Sunday morning, speaking of “a decision reminiscent of past times, with decisions made in the middle of the night” and a “country sold by the unhesitant people who govern it to interests of unknown origin,” according to a post by its spokesman, Costas Karapapas.