Minister calls for harsher penalties for fan violence

An initiative announced by Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Lianis, the State’s top-ranked sporting official, for an amendment that would penalize soccer clubs with point reductions for crowd violence and material damages linked to their fans, is headed in the right direction. But it stands little chance of being ratified, as EPAE, the association of professional soccer clubs, and EPO, Greece’s soccer federation, will both obstruct the plan. Obviously alarmed by the widespread public criticism of what is being perceived as the government’s indifference to frequent hooliganism in Greek soccer, Lianis finally decided to take action. He has reacted appropriately in the face of the inability of the Greek police and his superior, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, to solve this issue. But he has taken a faulty route. Lianis’s point-reduction penalty proposal clashes with the sport’s regulations, in which both EPAE and EPO have a say. Lianis’s move is best seen as putting pressure on these two bodies to act. On Monday, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos were handed light penalties for violence by fans during a recent clash. Consequently, Olympiakos will play its next four home games at a neutral ground. Panathinaikos will play two on neutral territory and must pay a 10,000-euro fine. Lianis added that he will also recommend to EPO that any penalties on clubs prohibiting them from playing at their home ground be revised to allow them to play there, but with no fans attending. EPO will likely approve the change.

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