Fan clubs get the boot

Sports clubs and the government agreed yesterday on the unprecedented step of suspending the functioning of all supporters’ clubs as part of a crackdown on fan violence following the death of a fan during a mass brawl between hooligans last week. Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos announced the measure after a meeting between representatives of Greece’s top soccer league as well as officials from lower-division clubs and other sports. «The sporting family has decided to launch a battle to eliminate violence,» said Orfanos. «You can rest assured that the government has the political will to achieve this and win the battle for the good of society.» Orfanos said the ban on supporters’ clubs, which provide teams with their hardcore support, will remain in place until surveillance cameras and electronic ticketing have been introduced at stadiums. A law ensuring tighter security at stadiums and that the name of each person buying a ticket be recorded on an electronic database was meant to be implemented last year but has not been enforced by authorities and clubs. Soccer’s Super League and the organizing bodies of basketball and volleyball agreed to stop distributing tickets directly to the fan clubs and vowed to help authorities shut down fan clubs that do not have a license. Demis Nikolaidis, the president of one of Greece’s biggest soccer clubs, AEK Athens, proposed that Greek teams not play in any European competition for the next three years until the problem can be sorted out. «We have ended up being ashamed of ourselves,» said Nikolaidis. «The Super League has failed… we are kidding each other and no one is really tackling the violence.» The proposal is unlikely to be accepted by other club presidents, as European soccer, particularly the Champions League, is a key source of revenue for Greece’s top clubs. Twelve of the 18 suspected hooligans arrested last week are due to face a magistrate today.

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