ATHENS —- Panathinaikos president Yiannis Alafouzos believes that creating a breakaway league might ultimately be the only way to start rebuilding the credibility of Greek football writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Alafouzos, also chairman of the Skai media group, was addressing the recent chaos in the Greek game on the BBC World Service’s World Football programme.
Last month the league was suspended on government orders after crowd trouble during a match between Panathinaikos and old rivals Olympiacos. Then AEK fans invaded the pitch and threw flares at Olympiacos players during a cup game.
Alafouzos insisted that government should do more to combat hooliganism and corruption in Greek football while acknowledging that the clubs could not avoid their share of responsibility for the lack of credibility in domestic competition.
Hence the idea of the leading clubs starting afresh.
Alafouzos said: “Ideas like that have been discussed. Some of the bigger clubs would create a new league and be done with this desperation that we and our fans feel with this lack of governance.
“I’m not suggesting that this is something that is being planned [but] this is one of the more remote possibilities that have been discussed.
“Of course there are a lot of practical and moral issues with breaking off and starting a new league. I have been trying to communicate with the fans desperately and explain that violence only harms the clubs and supporters.”
Alafouzos the only possible catalyst for such a drastic step would be if UEFA decided that Greek football was so far out of control that the clubs should be barred from European competition.
The causes of the violence – which have racked Greek football for many years – are many, complex and varied. The roots go back many years before the recent political unrest prompted by the financial crisis.
Alafouzos said: “Firstly all the involved parties in violence, including Panathinaikos, must accept their responsibilities and act to reduce violence in the stadiums.
“However, unless fans get back the confidence that the games that are played inside the field are honest and the results are not predetermined, I don’t think that this problem can be resolved.”
This led Alafouzos on to the corruption scandal in which the Greek game has been shrouded for the past four years.
He said: “You cannot have a criminal investigation that started in 2011, yet no trials have started in 2015. It is ridiculous, and the people – some of whom will obviously be innocent and are slandered by being accused of serious crimes – [see] their reputation being tarnished and the criminals who will be convicted are free to run and continue with their criminal activities.
“I’m not trying to dodge the real responsibility that clubs have in Greece. However, the state must reinforce the law, they cannot be bystanders to major scandals.
“Unless we clear up – with the help of UEFA and the Greek state – the corruption that exists in Greek football, the animosity and exasperation will not go away.”
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