Greece faces FIFA suspension

By late last night, the government had yet to issue a public response to an earlier announcement by soccer’s world governing body FIFA suspending Greece from international competition for allowing government interference in the running of the sport. FIFA’s emergency affairs committee, comprising the presidents of all the world soccer confederations, decided that the administration of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) did not comply with FIFA statutes regarding independence of the decision-making process from the government. «In spite of repeated warnings from both FIFA and UEFA, the commitment expressed by Greek government representatives to amend the law on sport to irrevocably recognize that football matters can only be decided by (EPO) has not been respected,» FIFA said in a statement yesterday afternoon. Last September, Greece was given a July 15 deadline to amend a national law on sports to safeguard EPO’s autonomy, but no such change has been forthcoming. «In fact, the recently presented draft of a new law… constitutes another example of government interference in football affairs,» FIFA’s statement added. EPO yesterday accused Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos of «playing with fire.» «He is leading Greek football into international isolation,» it said in an official statement. Orfanos did not comment on FIFA’s decision explictly yesterday but stressed that «the process (to resolve the problem in relations with FIFA) would be concluded (today) with the approval of the agreed legislative amendment.» Unless Greece’s suspension is lifted, first division club Larissa will not play its scheduled Intertoto Cup fixture on July 15.