It is time for soccer reform

The recent remarks by Deputy Economy Minister Giorgos Floridis on SKAI radio station were a slap in the face of the big shots who are the scourge of Greece’s professional soccer. With the authority of a politician who has thorough knowledge of the issue, the former sports minister lashed out against those squanderers of public money who are known for their «lack of transparency, maladministration, suspect transactions, insolvency» and vowed that the State would not hand them a single euro. Masks have dropped and the rotten reality of professional soccer has been revealed by the soccer club owners’ attempt to blackmail the State (they clamored for the government to compensate them for loss of revenue because of the collapse of a pay-television channel) and to drain money from the public purse, threatening to shut down the league with an indefinite strike. It’s time the public learned what people in the know have long been aware of. Individuals who have, in their vast majority, indulged in controversial business activity, and who lack a reliable economic or social status, have invaded soccer and used their teams as a front for money laundering and other suspect activities, bringing along with them the customs and habits of the underworld. Corruption, blackmail, forgery and even violence have been paraded before the eyes of a stunned public. When the underworld showed up, people turned away. And after people had turned away from soccer stadiums, they also turned away from television. Not even the most naive fans were interested in watching the meaningless matches of an unreliable championship. The collapse of Alpha Digital pay-TV and the soccer club owners’ barefaced search for state funding through the OPAP soccer pools was the foregone conclusion of this downhill course. The decision by responsible minister Evangelos Venizelos to turn off the tap for the state-dependent soccer mafia was a mature and necessary – though still inadequate – step toward reform. People demand that the State exploits this historical opportunity offered by the current crisis for a sweeping reform of soccer. New measures should provide for criminal penalties for the squandering of Greece’s taxpayers’ money and the illicit transactions which have brought discredit on the most exciting and popular sport of our times.

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