Fans warn of backlash

A fan club of soccer powerhouse Olympiakos threatened yesterday to lead election opposition against Greece’s top sports official to protest proposals to ban fans from following teams to away games. The measures, seeking to curb chronic fan violence, were announced last week by Giorgos Lianis, who is in charge of the sports portfolio for the government. National elections are scheduled for March 7. The proposals are aimed at organized fan clubs that travel together and occupy single blocks in stadiums. It is unlikely they could apply to individual supporters. «They should know that elections are close and Olympiakos’s votes are not guaranteed,» said the website of Gate Seven, a fan club for first-division Olympiakos. The fan club also described it as «stupid and unconstitutional.» The ban could take effect this weekend, but it faces widespread opposition, including that of league organizers. Small teams depend on traveling fans to fill their stadiums. Clashes are common in Greece between fans of rival soccer clubs. As a result, match attendance is declining and has led to financial problems for clubs. Olympiakos’s fans claim that the ban would favor archrival Panathinaikos as the next match could be hosted by the Athens club without the presence of Olympiakos supporters. The first meeting this season ended 1-1. (AP)

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