Record soccer fines overturned

A soccer tribunal yesterday overturned the stiffest penalties ever handed out for fan violence in Greek football after clashes between Panionios and Olympiakos supporters led to the postponement of their game earlier this month and resulted in 15 people being injured. In a massive climbdown, the appeals tribunal restored the three points that had been docked from both clubs after the riot on January 9, thereby sending the Piraeus team back to the top of the league and one point clear of its closest rivals, Panathinakos and AEK. Panionios move up to ninth spot in the first division. The panel also decided to allow the postponed game to be replayed within the next 14 days. Originally, a sports court had ruled that the match should be struck from the fixture list. The tribunal, however, upheld the decision to make the clubs play four home games behind closed doors. Panionios have already played two matches at their Nea Smyrni ground without any spectators present, while Olympiakos play their first at home to Aris Thessaloniki tomorrow. Both clubs will also have to pay fines imposed on them by the court on January 14, which were set at 300,000 euros for Olympiakos and 100,000 euros for Panionios. The violence was sparked by a group of Olympiakos fans forcing their way into the stadium and then staging a pitch invasion, leading to one supporter sustaining severe head injuries and 14 policemen being hurt, one seriously. «We have to protect the club from this type of phenomenon in the future. Olympiakos fans will have to isolate those who cause trouble in grounds,» Olympiakos President Socrates Kokkalis said after yesterday’s verdict, which he described as «strict» and damaging to the club.