Crackdown on fan violence

After fan violence marred the first domestic soccer season since the Greek national team’s European Championship triumph last summer, Parliament yesterday approved an unprecedented set of tough penalties for clubs whose fans misbehave. The stiffest of the new measures, which were included in a wider bill on sports, is a ruling that any club whose supporters cause a game to be disrupted or not to start because of hooliganism, will be fined 60,000 euros and forced to play at least five games behind closed doors. Although the level of the financial penalty may not be a cause for concern for some top Greek clubs, the possibility of playing so many games without the support of their fans will be food for thought. The league runners-up this season, Panathinaikos, were forced to play their last two games behind closed doors after fan misbehavior. The team just missed winning the title, falling short of bitter rivals Olympiakos. The champions were heavily punished earlier in the season after their fans rioted with rival supporters before a league game against Panionios in Athens. The two teams were handed the stiffest penalties ever given out in Greek soccer, including the docking of points, but part of the punishment was overturned on appeal. With the new measures, the government is hoping that it can provide some legislative backing for sports courts when it comes to punishing teams. From the new season, which is slated to start on August 28, teams will also have to play a minimum of two games behind closed doors and pay a 50,000-euro fine if their fans are involved in violence that leads to a player or official being injured. One element of the law that may prove difficult to enforce is a 15,000-euro fine and at least one game ban for fans when clubs’ supporters take part in abusive chanting.

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