Draft law on cleaning up sport

A draft law intended to impose transparency and legality on Greece’s truculent professional sports clubs while scrutinizing referees’ finances and cracking down on crowd violence was presented by the government yesterday. The proposed legislation, which would oblige club officials and shareholders to register all shares in their name while preventing them from owning stocks in other teams, was described as «very strict, draconian at points,» by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, whose brief includes sports. «Our target is to have the draft law passed as soon as possible… so that it can come into effect before the new [football] championship and all the other major sporting events of the next season start,» he told a press conference yesterday. In an attempt to confront spectator violence, which continued to mar football matches during the 2001-2002 season, first offenders will be strictly punished to nip the problem in the bud, Venizelos said. This will involve long bans on attending sporting events. «If we took young first offenders and put them in prison, we would only bring them into contact with other forms of crime… achieving the opposite of what we intended,» he said. Furthermore, supporter clubs will be more strictly regulated, while tickets will be issued in spectators’ names and stamped by the police. Shareholders will be forced into the light. «We will know exactly who owns shares in sports clubs, and nobody will be able to hide behind the facade of a Greek or foreign company,» the minister said. And all board members, as well as shareholders who own over 1 percent of a club’s stock, will have to table annual funds-source (pothen esches) declarations. Checks on referees’ funds-source declarations will also be tightened.