ATHENS: The Greek football federation has suspended league competition indefiitely – and not for the first time – after gun-toting Ivan Savvidis, Russian oligarch owner of PAOK Salonika, ran on to the pitch to confront the referee over a last-minute goal decision.
Deputy Sports Minister Giorgos Vassiliadis announced the suspension of play after a two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
He said: “We have decided to suspend the championship indefinitely. The most important thing is that rules apply to everyone. We are in communication with European federation UEFA and the championship will not resume unless there is a new and clear framework, agreed by all, to move forward with rules and regulations.”
An arrest warrant has been issued for Savvidis, a tobacco magnate who is listed by Forbes as the 30th wealthiest Russian oligarch with close ties, reportedly, to President Vladimir Putin.
World federation FIFA reacted by warning that Greece could be suspended from world football if its national governing body failed to take “proper actions by the competent bodies to eradicate all sorts of violence in order to guarantee the smooth running of the national competitions”.
Savvidis charged on to the pitch twice, his holstered handgun clearly visible, during the goalless draw with AEK Athens. The trigger for his personal pitch invasion came In the 89th minute when referee Giorgos Kominos appeared to signal a goal for PAOK but then disallowed it for offside.
Georgian-born Savvidis was reported to have threatened the referee with the words: “You’re over.” AEK’s players walked off the pitch, and the match was abandoned.
A spokesman for Savvidis told the Russian news agency TASS: “He didn’t threaten anyone with a gun. It isn’t forbidden to carry a weapon in Greece.”
Greek football has been plagued down the years by hooliganism and this is not the first time league competition has been suspended while the authorities try to buy time for tempers to cool.