Soccer rivals set for showdown, ISAP says supporters can walk

The usual prematch tension generated ahead of games between perennial soccer rivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos – which meet for a national league match at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday – has reached unaccustomed heights as a result of host team Olympiakos’s decision to offer visiting fans expensive tickets. Olympiakos’s administration is offering Panathinaikos’s organized fans match tickets for as much as 8,000 drachmas, more than double the 3,000-drachma price home fans will need to pay for similar seats in the stadium. A total of 15,000 tickets at 8,000 drachmas each, and an additional 3,500 for 5,000 drachmas each, have been made available to the visitors’ fans, the Olympiakos club has announced. Panathinaikos’s administration has reacted negatively to Olympiakos’s pricing policy and refused to accept the offer unless the 8,000-drachma tickets are slashed to 3,000 drachmas each, the price they are being sold to the home team’s fans. Olympiakos officials, on the other hand, claim that as the match’s home team, the club is exercising its right to adjust ticket prices as it sees fit. Panathinaikos views its rival’s pricing policy as unfair, citing its decision to offer tickets for 5,000 drachmas each to fans of both clubs when the two teams last met on Panathinaikos’s home turf, the Leoforos Alexandras stadium, last season. Panathinaikos has warned that it will act likewise when its turn comes to host Olympiakos later in the season. Besides the woes prompted by Olympiakos’s pricing policy, Saturday’s match is also encountering public transportation problems. Responding to a recent attack by Olympiakos hooligans on a Piraeus-Kifissia line train at Faliron station – a carriage was struck by a Molotov cocktail injuring at least 10 passengers – public transport authorities said that fans would be barred from using the line for Saturday’s match unless a list of guarantees were met. A head official at ISAP, the train operators, said that EPAE, Greece’s association for professional soccer clubs, would need to lodge a letter of credit worth 100 million drachmas as insurance against any potential damage. Moreover, ISAP has promised to bar fans from trains this Saturday unless the police can guarantee the safety of commuters, stations and carriages. At this point, it seems likely that EPAE will produce the letter of credit demanded by ISAP. In view of the crowd violence that has marred Greek sports, particularly soccer, a meeting on the subject will be held today by the deputy culture minister, Yiannis Kourakis, the government’s top sports official. Various other sports officials will take part.

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