SPORTS

EPAE attacks ban on fans

Concerned about the measure’s financial repercussions on teams, the professional association of Greek soccer clubs, EPAE, yesterday urged the government to nullify a recent ban on away-game tickets for organized fan clubs. The fan ban entails not supplying away tickets to organized fan clubs that travel together and occupy single blocks in stadiums. In pushing for both the Culture and Public Order ministries to pull back on the drastic measure, which came into effect last weekend after persisting fan violence in Greek soccer, EPAE does not appear to be committed to the prospect of solving the problem of hooliganism. Of course, the fan ban by the government, which has been on the receiving end of strong criticism for failing to clamp down on clubs whose fans have run rampant, does not solve the problems, but it rates as an earnest attempt. Following an EPAE meeting yesterday, the association’s president, Thanassis Kanellopoulos, described the government’s measures as «unacceptable,» while adding that they would send clubs to financial ruin. Smaller clubs in Greece’s 16-team first division competition, which rely heavily on revenues from the visiting fans of major clubs, have been particularly vocal against the fan ban. Not long after its implementation, the fan ban has already generated some confusion. During a relegation-zone encounter between Kallithea and Ionikos last weekend, some 30 visiting Ionikos fans who attended independently and not as part of any organized fan club, were arrested and held in police custody for ID checks. Similar incidents were reported at other games. Yesterday, Kanellopoulos, the EPAE chief, condemned the initiative taken by police on duty. «This was a blunt intervention by police forces on professional soccer,» said Kanellopoulos. He implied that clubs could resort to legal action for compensation of lost revenues as a result of the fan ban. Team officials also spoke out against the controversial measures. Defying the regulations, the vice president of the Aegaleo club, Victoras Mitropoulos, said that he would make tickets available to visiting fans through the club’s box office for its upcoming game against PAOK tis weekend. He also condemned the government – unashamedly. «This measure is unacceptable, and, if certain individuals believe that they are in the position to implement regulations, then they may as well do it correctly,» Mitropoulos asserted. «All I have to say is that the minister is senseless,» he added, referring to Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Lianis, architect of the fan ban. In a club announcement, the Panionios team said that it would not make tickets available to organized fan clubs but that it would not stop selling to any interested parties through its box office.