SPORTS

Former referee starts blowing the whistle

Former referee Dimitris Pontikis named soccer federation (EPO) president, Vassilis Gagatsis, as one of those involved in an alleged network set up last decade and operating until the start of this one, which influenced referees’ decisions and team officials. Pontikis, who officiated games in the top flight from 1999 to 2001, gave an exclusive interview to Sunday’s Kathimerini and admitted he was forced to be part of the system. He suggests the EPO president cannot possibly solve today’s refereeing problems. «Gagatsis was the general secretary of EPO during that sinful period. When you hold that position, it means you are the No 2 of soccer. Now the same person is supposed to clean up the sinful period in which he was also active,» said Pontikis. Known in Greece as the «shack,» the network was allegedly set up by the owner of Aegaleo FC, Thomas Mitropoulos, the brother of then president of the league, Viktoras Mitropoulos. «Gagatsis is scared of speaking about Thomas because such people with strong personalities are hard to stand up to, particularly if they have things to reveal about you.» Pontikis recounts how the system and its organizers worked: «The first steps were taken in 1995. It was hard to get to speak to them, i.e. Thomas himself, but you would speak to the people who spoke with him. This was always the same people, even today. They would come and tell you they would put you on the referee chart for the top division. They would ask referees to show a card to specific players in each game, and advise club officials not to use certain players or against giving it all in a particular game.» Asked about the famous quote by a former referee official who said: «Olympiakos and Aegaleo should win and the rest can go to hell,» Pontikis said this was far too mild a statement to express what was going on at the time.