Greece suspends league competition following arson attack on refereeing chief

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Greece suspended all national league and cup competitions on Wednesday following an alleged arson attack on the home of Giorgios Bikas, the head of its refereeing committee.

Bikas and his family were fortunately not at the scene of the fire at their home in the Halkidiki area of northern Greece, but the home suffered major damage in the blaze.

In a statement, the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) elaborated on the decision to suspend play: “Following an extraordinary meeting, the EPO announces its decision for the suspension of all national football championships until the conclusion of the investigation into the causes of the fire by the fire services. The EPO expresses its full compassion to Mr Giorgos Bikas, whom we will support in every way possible.”

The start of the season had already been postponed for two weeks in September by the government due to an extended dispute over the selection of referees between Greece’s top clubs, the EPO and the government. Just a week ago, another member of the country's refereeing committee (KED), Giorgos Tsachilidis, was threatened by two men on his doorstep. All three KED members resigned following the incident.

Many of Greece's top clubs have rallied behind the KED, issuing statements condemning the attack.

Said the Greek champions, “Olympiacos suffers more damage than most from this latest criminal and disgraceful act.”

“There must be no surrender to this mafia – only a strong and united front against these criminals from all of us. It is shocking organized crime in football not only remains in place, but is now putting human lives at risk,”said PAOK Salonica in a similarly worded statement.

Panathinaikos chief executive, Christos Panagopoulos, went so far as to demand that the Super League be suspended until the conclusion of the current investigation into an organized criminal group controlling Greek football.

“We simply cannot sit and watch houses of people being burned to the ground and talk about football. Even if the courts decide in 2020 (on the investigation), let’s wait and start the championship again then.”

The league's suspension will not affect the national team's World Cup qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Athens on November 13th, and Greek teams will continue their involvement in the Europa League.

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(Photo: Getty Images)