Government backs Greek soccer shakeup
The government is backing a shakeup of Greece’s soccer league as
prosecutors begin an investigation into allegations of corruption
and attempted match-fixing.
The government has requested the Greek Football Association
intervene and take authority from the Superleague, the body that
currently runs the country’s top league with little regulation.
The GFA has also been asked to consider using foreign referees
for certain domestic games.
”The Superleague is not suitable to organize the championship,
given the current circumstances, the way it works and the behavior
of some of its senior members,” the government’s general secretary
for sport, Panos Bitsaxis, wrote. ”The government respects the
self-governing nature of football. … But the government will take
the decisions necessary to restore the credibility of professional
He warned that state-controlled betting company OPAP could
withdraw funding for soccer unless serious reforms are made.
On Friday, prosecutors began hearing testimony from referees
after a prominent lawyer handed judicial authorities what he said
were taped conversations providing evidence of attempts to bribe a
Greek referee and others.
The lawyer on Wednesday said the allegations included a failed
attempt to influence an Aug. 5 Europa League match between Maccabi
Tel Aviv and Greek league leader Olympiakos.
Olympiakos flatly denied the allegations, while other clubs
applauded the government’s initiative.
AEK Athens wrote an open letter to Prime Minister George
Papandreou, comparing the soccer scandal to the lack of public
accountability that helped create Greece’s financial crisis.
”Professional Greek football is rotten, an area in which
parasitic and criminal elements are served by an orgy of corruption
with the complete inability of football institutions to react,”
”It is a product of the pathologies of Greek society that have
brought us to the state of collapse that we live in today:
lawlessness, nepotism, money laundering, tax dodging, corruption,
blackmail, and the assurance of impunity provided by a web of
Investigative magistrate Constantine Simitzoglou, heading the
soccer corruption probe, is due to hear testimony Monday from more
acting and former referees, sports reporters and the head of the
Greek FA, Sofoklis Pilavios.