SPORTS

Soccer votes to suspend itself

By Nick Malkoutzis, George Georgakopoulos

Following another season bedeviled by violence, scandal and suspicion of corruption at all levels, Greek soccer decided on June 3 to suspend all activity for two weeks.

The president of the Hellenic Football Federation (HFF), Sofoklis Pilavios, asked the country?s soccer association to vote on his suggestion of a two-week suspension and the support for his initiative was overwhelming: Forty-nine voted in favor, seven against and one ?present.?

The decision triggered a positive reaction by the Super League but also a very negative one by various clubs.

The move means that the second- and third-division playoffs will be put on hold until further notice, while if the action stretches into July it will also affect the transfer window. It will not affect Greece's Euro 2012 qualifier against Malta on June 4.

?The situation is somewhere between difficult and tragic,? Pilavios stated. ?The only defense against this is to have a sport that is comprehensively controlled.?

The HFF chairman claimed he had received personal threats over the federation?s refusal to issue operating permits to top-flight Iraklis and second-division OFI Crete. But the whole season was riddled with problems.

Pilavios said he wants to use the two weeks to hold discussions with soccer?s ?healthy elements? on ways of improving the game.

"The Federation is closing down for 15 days for us to find a solution. But when we decide to tell the [whole] truth it will only take a couple of days. Soccer will either move forward or die,» Pilavios said after exiting the HFF meeting.

"Unless we find a solution to our issues in this period of suspension, I will resign,» he stressed.

The federation's head told delegates that soccer is close to sinking over issues such as the lack of state support, clubs' attitude to violence and the cloud of negativity hanging over the 41 cases of match fixing currently under investigation.

"We now ask what kind of soccer they want... That of bouncers, hooligans, liars, forgers, obsolete ideas, under-the-table dealings, dependence on politicians who take advantage of it, fixed matches, violence and threats? Or what we propose, which is soccer based on institutions and rules, on decency, reliability, moral values, without commitments and underground dealings, soccer that has equality and meritocracy adjusted to global developments?»

Sources close to Olympiakos president Vangelis Marinakis described the decision as «funny stuff,» arguing that it points at Pilavios's inability to run Greek soccer.

Relegated Iraklis, which has launched all-out war on the federation, added ironically that «Pilavios has just discovered America."

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