AEK to play behind closed doors, punished for crowd trouble
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Defending Greek champion AEK Athens was sanctioned by UEFA on Friday and threatened with suspension from European competition after rioting fans hurled flares and a petrol bomb at rival supporters from Ajax during a Champions League match in November.
UEFA ordered the competition ban but suspended the decision for two years. It also ordered AEK to play its next two games in European competition behind closed doors, and fined the club 80,000 euros ($90,800).
The violence broke out inside the Olympic Stadium before the start of the match on Nov. 27, mostly involving Greek fans who clashed with riot police. Moments before the game started, riot police charged into the stands to break up AEK fans who hurled flares and smoke canisters.
Police reported no injuries or arrests, but a petrol bomb exploded near a section of away supporters. In the UEFA decision on Friday, AEK fans were blamed for throwing objects, setting off fireworks, a field invasion and crowd disturbances.
Ajax won the game 2-0.
The penalty saw AEK dodge an immediate competition ban, and the club issued a new apology for the violence.
"From the outset, our team has publicly apologized and acknowledged its responsibility for what happened. Most importantly, the behavior was an affront to one of the most important clubs in European history," AEK said.
AEK recovered from bankruptcy in 2013 and rose from the amateur leagues to with the country's league title last season. It has failed to repeat that success so far this season and is currently in third place, 17 points behind leader PAOK Thessaloniki.