Aris gets off lightly for incidents

In the wake of fan violence that erupted during a first division soccer match between Aris and Olympiakos in Thessaloniki last weekend, some of which was targeted at sports journalists covering the game, a sports journalists union yesterday declared a 10-minute work stoppage affecting the next round of league games, to be played over two days, tomorrow and Sunday. The Panhellenic Sports Press Association, PSAT, said all sports journalists covering games for press, TV, radio, and Internet sites would begin work 10 minutes into all first division games this weekend. Watching their side go down 3-0 to defending champion Olympiakos last weekend, Aris fans uprooted and tossed stadium seats onto the arena, and, beyond that, launched attacks on journalists during which 10 cameras broadcasting the game were broken. Transmission was interrupted. PSAT, in a statement delivered yesterday to local media bosses explaining the reasons for the upcoming work stoppage, said violence of the nature witnessed last weekend needed to be combated firmly and in unison. PSAT also noted that the 10-minute stoppage was intended as an initial warning, and added that it expected solid action by the State and local sports authorities to wipe out hooliganism in Greek sports. Yet, a day after the government promised stricter measures, a sports tribunal yesterday handed lighter-than-expected punishment to the Aris club over last weekend’s extreme outbreak by fans. The club will play its next three home games before empty stands, and was also fined 12,000 euros. Olympiakos was also fined 12,000 euros for the involvement of its fans in the conflict. Also yesterday, the sports tribunal fined PAOK and Kalamaria, with fines of 1,500 and 1,000 euros respectively, for incidents in other games. Earlier in the week, authorities had said the Aris club was in danger of being struck by stiffer disciplinary action entailing automatic losses in its next three league games as well as five home games before empty stands. By comparison, the actual penalty comes as reprieve for the Thessaloniki club. This latest form of light disciplinary action is a long way off from shell-shocking the culprit as a first step toward bringing fans back to matches. Attendance figures at Greek soccer matches have dropped dramatically in recent years, violence being a prime factor. Both the Aris club’s administration and its legal representatives contended, during the sports tribunal hearing, that last weekend’s trouble was the work of a group of about five or six individuals. They also attributed a journalist’s injury during the incidents to his tripping over and falling onto a camera. There is little – or no – doubt that had the Thessaloniki club’s fans caused trouble of such magnitude in European competition, the consequences would have been far heavier. UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, would have shown no mercy with its fines. All local parties are well aware of the disparities between Greek and European disciplinary boards, and, as such, behave accordingly.