Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis issued a stern warning on Thursday that if the “sick climate” pervading Greek soccer persists he will be forced to suspend the Super League.
The warning came in the wake of the controversy sparked by the government's decision to pass an amendment in Parliament on Wednesday that spared two northern clubs – champion PAOK and Xanthi – from relegation over their alleged infringement of ownership rules.
The government said it made the move to avert a north-south divide in the country.
Against the backdrop of the controversy, which has further damaged the reputation of the country's beleaguered soccer league, Mitsotakis said he is seeking emergency talks with soccer's world and European governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, to reform Greece’s professional leagues.
He added that he will extend “personal invitations” to the heads of FIFA and UEFA for talks in Athens and that he wants both bodies to sign a “memorandum of understanding” to help elevate and reform Greek soccer.
During what was an intense speech, Mitsotakis said it was imperative that a “soccer dispute” is not turned into a “social dispute” and defended his government’s amendment that spared PAOK and Xanthi from relegation, which caused an uproar from detractors. He insisted the decision to introduce the amendment was made with “social criteria” and not based on club affiliations.
The government’s move, he said, was driven by the need to alleviate the tense reaction sparked by the recommendation on Monday by the Professional Sports Commission that PAOK and Xanthi should be relegated for violating Super League rules by having the same owner.
Referring to the issue of Greek soccer in general, Mitsotakis noted that it has been plagued with problems of this kind for 20 years and that “no government has managed to address it.” He added that he would not allow a business and football rivalry to be brought to the political scene.
For his part, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said prime ministers of the past, including himself, went through difficult times due to the demands of the country’s lenders and memorandums or due to crucial decisions that had to be taken on national issues.
You, he told Mitsotakis, “are going through [difficult times] because of soccer.”