It was a case of much ado about nothing at the eagerly anticipated inner cabinet meeting under Prime Minister George Papandreou on May 5, as no immediate measures were announced and the outcome was reduced to certain vague threats directed at the country’s soccer authorities.
Despite expectations of a strong reaction to recent incidents of violence in sports, particularly related to soccer, the government did no more than ask the federation (EPO) to enforce the legislation concerning the penalizing of clubs found guilty of fan violence.
”We are giving soccer one last chance,” said Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos after the meeting, which came as an anticlimax considering the strict stance that both fans and the media had been calling for.
Original reports had suggested the government was considering immediate measures such as suspending the Super League playoffs, but it appears that at least the first round will go ahead as planned on May 8.
However, the police have voiced objection to the dates for Round 2 on May 11 (a national strike has been called for the same day) and Round 3 on May 15 (also the date of the basketball cup final between archrivals Panathinaikos and Olympiakos).
After the meeting, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis threatened that the state would excommunicate soccer if the latter failed to put its house in order, suggesting that state money would stop flowing, public stadiums would not be used for matches and that state television would stop covering the sport.
Geroulanos added that he would wait for the general EPO meeting on June 3 before taking strict measures.
Notably, the government said nothing about the riots that rocked Thessaloniki on Wednesday due to protests by Iraklis fans against their club’s relegation to the second division.
Some 15,000 Iraklis fans rallied in the city center and hundreds of these took part in riots, damaging cars and shops, setting garbage bins alight and clashing with police.
There were 27 arrests made, while nine more Iraklis supporters were detained in Athens after smaller-scale violent incidents took place outside EPO’s headquarters.