Greek government accused of economic blackmail

ATHENS - Greek football bosses have accused the government of "economic blackmail" after it suspended state funding for professional football due to crowd violence.

"What is needed is dialogue and not scorn of Super League and its teams who are constantly trying to fight violence," said the Super League in a statement on Tuesday.

"From the moment the Super League was formed in 2006 the confrontation with violence has not only been a fundamental priority but the reason for the introduction of stricter safety measures and reformation of the disciplinary code including the reintroduction of playing matches behind closed doors as punishment in an effort to obliterate the phenomena from Greek stadiums.

"Unfortunately this irregular suspension qualifies as economic blackmail," read the statement.

General secretary for sport Panagiotis Bitsaxis said on Monday that with the exception of the national team, revenues from state-controlled betting organisation OPAP had been suspended until officials stamped out crowd violence.

The government's move came after several fans were injured in clashes in the stands and on the pitch during a Greek Cup semi-final between Kavala and Aris Salonica last Thursday.

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Greek football has a poor record of crowd trouble and has been plagued by the problem again this season despite anti-violence advertising campaigns.

"Some recent incidents show a lot of work is still required from all of the institutions," said the league's statement.

"The Super League cannot solve the problem alone if it does not have the collaboration of the police, the responsible bodies of state, supporter clubs and every other institution involved in the organisation of football matches.

"It should be noted the overwhelming majority of the 16 teams in the Super League have negative financial results and are financed by shareholders with continuous increases of capital each year," added the statement.

"These clubs collect roughly 17 million euros per year (in total) from OPAP while the income of just one company which is part of OPAP, 'Let's Bet', receives in excess of two billion euros.

"We invite the general secretary for sport to revise his attitude and to continue the dialogue that we began, without disdain for the Super League and the teams within it with the fundamental objective of solving the problem of violence."

Only the national team has escaped the stiff measure as they prepare for the World Cup in South Africa in June.

NEWS: Greece suspends state funding following crowd violence

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