By Andrew Warshaw
April 6 – Greece has been given a 10-day ultimatum by FIFA to stop government interference in its footballing affairs but the threat of a worldwide ban from international competition still hangs over the country.
Last month Greece was ordered to reinstate its national cup competition, scrapped by the government earlier this month because of crowd trouble, or risk serious sanctions at both national and club level.
The cup competition was called off after the first leg of the semi-final between PAOK Salonika and Olympiakos on March 2 was abandoned due to a pitch invasion, with fans hurling flares and missiles before being dispersed by riot police.
New legislation would allow the government to impose fines ranging from €10,000 to €25 million for violent incidents, order the postponement or cancellation of sporting events and even prohibit teams from playing in European competition but the legislation would breach strict rules on government interference in football.
The Greeks were initially given until April 1 to comply but dug their heels in and the deadline has now been extended in the hope of finding a solution.
In a letter to Deputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis, FIFA described scrapping the domestic cup and the planned legislation as “disproportionate and as interference in the internal affairs” of the Greek football association, and issued a 10-day deadline to reverse the decision.
Any suspension would see Greece’s national teams, clubs and referees thrown out of all international competitions.
“Less stringent or more appropriate measures, such as matches without spectators or international refereeing for the remaining games of the Greek Cup could have been implemented,” the letter said.
The issue has been complicated by a legal challenge launched against the government by the Greek FA (EPO), which had been due to be heard at a high court Tuesday. The hearing was postponed until April 19 because of a lawyers’ strike.
Kontonis met with a FIFA delegation that visited Athens last week but seemingly to no avail. Hence Fifa’s follow-up letter which stated:
“The FIFA Emergency Committee decided to set a deadline of 15 April 2016 for the decision to (cancel) the 2015/2016 Greek Cup to be reversed, failing which the EPO would face an automatic suspension of its membership.”
Kontonis argues the planned legislation is legal and has insisted that no further steps will be taken until the EPO’s appeal against the move is heard by the Supreme Court.
But FIFA counters that any verdict by that body would be irrelevant since “regardless of the eventual decision, the issues linked to the implementation and the potential interference of the law would remain.”
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