Record penalties for soccer riot

A sports court handed Olympiakos Piraeus and Panionios soccer clubs the most severe penalties in the history of the Greek game late on Friday night, as punishment for their role in the fan violence that saw the first division match between the two sides postponed last Sunday. The two clubs had three league points deducted, were ordered to play their next four home games, starting this week, behind closed doors and the postponed game was struck from the fixture list. The ruling dents the Piraeus club’s title hopes while putting Panionios near the relegation zone. Olympiakos was also fined 300,000 euros and Panionios 100,000 euros for the riot at the latter’s Nea Smyrni stadium, in which Olympiakos fans illicitly secured tickets in stands filled with Panionios supporters, whom they then attacked. Olympiakos fans also staged a pitch invasion. The violence, which forced the referee to cancel the game before it could start, led to one supporter sustaining heavy head injuries, while 14 policemen were injured, one seriously. After a board meeting on Saturday, Olympiakos chairman Socrates Kokkalis distanced himself from a previous statement by the club claiming the entire incident had been an «organized plan to annihilate Olympiakos.» «We will not make any accusations without possessing the facts,» Kokkalis said. He also rejected calls from hardcore fans to withdraw the team or put out amateurs in league matches in protest. «To the contrary, we are discussing how we can win the championship. We are not withdrawing,» said Kokkalis. The Panionios board, due to meet today, issued a statement labeling the penalties «unfair» and claiming the three judges had been influenced by Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Orfanos.

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