UEFA must take more active role in Greek football says Panathinaikos president

UEFA must take more active role in Greek football says Panathinaikos president

European soccer’s governing body UEFA needs to take a more active role in efforts to fix troubled Greek football, Panathinaikos president Giannis Alafouzos said on Thursday, days after a Greek fan died in clashes with Dinamo Zagreb fans.

Greek football has been plagued by violence, corruption and rigged match scandals for decades and repeated reform attempts have managed little progress.

The sport suffered another major setback last week with the death of the AEK Athens supporter, prompting the latest government-led meeting on football on Wednesday with the heads of the country’s four big clubs — Panathinaikos, AEK, PAOK and Olympiakos Piraeus — plus UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin present.

UEFA said the “cancer” within Greek football needed to stop as the Greek government banned all but one — official — fan group for all clubs. The government also handed security on match days to police from private firms hired by the clubs.

UEFA declined to comment further when asked by Reuters.

“I think it’s very important for UEFA to take a more active part in the affairs of Greek football … even though every federation is independent,” Alafouzos, a businessman who has been running Panathinaikos since 2012, told Reuters.

“I was very happy they took the time to get involved with the problems a small country has with football. That was a very good sign,” he added in an interview.

Greece’s FA president was not at the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Alafouzos welcomed the government’s decision for police to take over security outside stadiums from private firms.

“The policing is very important. Private security cannot do body search, identify fake tickets, you cannot enforce an ID check if police are not there,” Alafouzos said.

More than 100 people, most of them Croatian citizens, have been charged with a number of felonies and have been detained pending trial over the clashes that led to 29-year-old Michalis Katsouris being stabbed to death near the AEK stadium.

Endemic corruption

Alafouzos would have wanted to focus on his team’s Champions League third qualifying round win over Olympique de Marseille that put them in a two-legged playoff against Braga for a spot in the lucrative group stage which they last reached in 2011.

But he said any improvement of the sport in Greece would first need to battle endemic corruption.

As part of that corruption Alafouzos mentioned the investigations in recent years into allegations of match-fixing, violent attacks on referees and match officials, and what he said were attempts to influence the Greek FA.

Spectator figures for last season show only the top four teams managed average attendances above 10,000.

“There is corruption. The federation has not done anything in years. Unless you get the federation to look into the workings of football you cannot solve the problems,” Alafouzos said.

The Greek Football Federation was not immediately available to comment.

The death of the AEK supporter is the second in two years after a 19-year-old fan was beaten and stabbed to death outside Aris Thessaloniki’s stadium last year.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis on Wednesday also warned clubs that the government was exploring a further tightening of rules should violence not end at sporting events, including the possible exclusion of Greek clubs for European competition.

Greece’s Super League season starts on Friday.

“I think the government is trying to clear this up. UEFA is also trying but I don’t know how much authority they feel they have,” Alafouzos said. “Unless UEFA does it the government cannot be seen to interfere.” 


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