SPORTS

Greece defies FIFA, UEFA to keep Cup cancellation in place

greece-defies-fifa-uefa-to-keep-cup-cancellation-in-place

Deputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis will not reverse a decision to cancel this season's domestic cup due to crowd violence, despite running the risk of the country's teams being barred from playing in Europe.

FIFA and European governing body UEFA sent a letter to Greek authorities last Friday requesting they reinstate the Greek Cup by April 1 after the tournament was canceled by the government earlier this month because of crowd trouble at a match.

A failure to meet the deadline could result in sanctions that include the suspension of the Greek federation, clubs blocked from playing in European club competitions and the national side also barred from international tournaments.

"I hope it is understood that the Greek government has no intervention of altering the decision to cancel the Greek Cup competition due to its exhaustive efforts in trying to protect basic social rights such as public order and social peace," Kontonis said in a letter to FIFA circulated to local media on Wednesday.

"We declare yet again that the Greek government fully respects the self-governing function of sports federations and is not intervening in the administration, nor on issues related to sports," he added.

The competition was called off after the first leg of the semi-final between PAOK and Olympiakos on March 2 was abandoned amid crowd chaos.

In a lengthy statement more than 1,500 words long, Kontonis said that the decision was not only legal but he also pointed out that the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) did not, in fact, exercise their recognized right to object initially.

EPO has since appealed to the Council of State, which will hear the case on March 29, and Kontonis declared that the situation would only change if the country's highest court decided to reverse his decision made on March 3.

"The cancellation of the Greek Cup is another preventive measure designed to protect public safety, which although is particularly serious, is not a punitive measure, and the law actually provides the further step of suspending or canceling the championship, if it is necessary," Kontonis added.

"We would like to stress that the government will fully respect the decision which will be made by the Supreme Court of the country…"

Kontonis also rejected FIFA's suggestions that his decision was "disproportionate" and that the state could have used less severe measures, such as playing matches behind closed doors or a temporary suspension.

He cited examples that similar punishments had been dished out in the past year alone and that the Greek top flight was suspended three times last season but problems persisted.

[Reuters]