Minister heralds law change

Greece’s sports minister yesterday promised to amend – but not withdraw – the draft law that prompted FIFA this week to suspend Greece from all international soccer competition. The ban led to strong criticism of Greece’s conservative government and a threat of legal action by major clubs to recover financial losses. «The government, in collaboration with FIFA… will find a solution so that there is no problem,» Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos said. «We have heard views which can be incorporated in the bill… we’re working quickly to sort this out.» Warnings ignored FIFA on Monday suspended the Greek national team, clubs and officials from all international competition, arguing the government had ignored repeated warnings to stop interfering with the Greek FA. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Greece had until July 15 to make changes required for the ban to be lifted. The action was taken before Orfanos submitted a bill to Parliament to regulate professional sporting organizations, many accused of financial irregularities and lacking transparency. The minister refused to withdraw the bill, but insisted the amendments would be enough to appease demands by FIFA. Vassilis Gagatsis, head of the Hellenic Soccer Federation, or EPO, said Greece risked a two-year suspension if the draft law is not dropped. «You promised one thing and did another,» state television quoted Gagatsis as telling Orfanos in Parliament. «Unless the draft law is withdrawn the punishment will stand.» Olympiakos warns Defending Greek league champion Olympiakos said it could sue the government if excluded from the Champions League. «If a company loses profits it has the right to go to court,» Olympiakos Vice President Petros Kokkalis said. Andreas Loverdos, a spokesman for the opposition Socialist party, said, «We are in the very unfortunate position of being forced into a reversal after the country’s football reputation has been damaged.» (AP)