Greek football tragedy: game-changing referees, match-fixing rampant, FIFA and UEFA smile on

Superleague Greece

By Paul Nicholson

January 30 – Greek football is in chaos and the crisis in the top professional tiers is not showing any signs of improvement. This is despite a FIFA normalisation committee led by Portuguese Vitor Melo Pereira and the parachuting in last week of UEFA director of national associations Zoran Laković. Rather than finding solutions, his trip in fact just rubber stamped the ‘new’ status quo.

The result has been another week of recrimination and accusations aimed at referee appointments in the Greek Super League, and yet more allegations of rampant betting related matchfixing in the second tier Football League.

It is a familiar story and depending on who you talk, the situation is worsening.

Club confidence in referees is at an all time low and trust in FIFA and UEFA’s ability to find an equitable solution is evaporating. Where radical solutions are required to win back control and respect for the administration of the game, instead FIFA and UEFA have supported a new regime with allegiances to leading clubs AEK and PAOK, allegiances their rivals say are distorting Greek football in their favour.

A fact triumphantly paraded by club owners like Ivan Savvidis (PAOK) who said in a TV interview to ERT that Hellenic Football Federation president Vangelos Grammenos is “ours” (see clip).

It is the ‘us’ and ‘them’ culture that has so deeply divided Greek football. Divisions that are too deep and wide to paper over with platitudes.

Olympiakos has called for foreign referees to be flown in for key matches, such is the depth of distrust. It is a call other clubs have been picking up but Pereira has stuck firmly behind the decision making of Alexis Dedes, ex-CEO of AEK who resigned to take a position on normalistation committee, and was then appointed HFF General Secretary, and Michael Koukoulakis, a former international referee who joined the normalisation committee and was given oversight of referees and their appointments.

Two open letters aimed at the HFF and their referees appointments took a different tone but had the same theme. While congratulating their winning opponents Atromitos of Athens, AE Larissa FC also cynically congratulated “today’s match first referee Mr. Melissanidis, from the association of Phthiotis, and wishes that he always achieves such fair and correct performances.

“Bravo and may we admire you on much higher occasions, like the Champions League final and the World Cup final.”

Panionios’ open letter was more despairing.

“Dear refereeing officials, we are tired of watching the same show again and again. On every match day, whether at home or away, we have the same treatment from the referees. We had received the signals from the last matches of the previous season. This year, from the beginning of the championship, the refereeing has been hostile to Panionios.

“Especially in the last matches, we have seen our team’s goals being invalidated (as in the match against Kerkyra) and attacks (as in today’s match against Giannina) being interrupted with non-existent off sides and “surgical interventions”, and, of course, our team not getting what it deserves on the pitch. Moreover, no controversial situation is ever decided in favour of Panionios…

“We have already prepared the DVDs of our matches so that all Greece can see the rightfulness of our claims.

“Sirs, for goodness sake, you cannot be the ones defining the destiny of the clubs.”

Betting related match-fixing

Greece’s second tier Football League, which has as its title sponsor on-line Greek bookmaker Stoiximan, has seemingly run out of control with the number of betting related matches fixed. Reports a year ago that as many as 75% of matches were fixed for betting have seemingly not resulted in any significant changes.

In a widely circulated email Nikolaos Theodorou, who works for the Greek government and is a project manager of the fixthefixing.eu and sportwhistle.eu initiatives, has called on FIFA and UEFA to provide protection for Apollon Pontus coach Dimitris Kalaitzidis who has given evidence to Greek prosecutors “surrounding agents coming into the dressing room and asking for players to concede goals. Players are offered 20,000 euros before the game begins to let in four or five goals.”

His allegations were first made last December and since then he says he has been intimidated by motorcycle riders outside his house and his door bell being rung during the night.

Kalaitzidis reportedly told the Greek state prosecutor for Salonika: “On October 28, 2017, the Aris FC V Aeginakos FC football match was held, for which Yiannis Niopas received 20,000 euros for his team Aeginiakos in order to manipulate more than 4 goals. The match ended 5-0 [in favour of the fix).”

Kalaitzidis also said that the OFI CRETA FC v Aeginakos FC (match, played November 12, 2017, was fixed for sport betting gain. Niopas told Kalaitzidis that the president of OFI FC CRETA Fotis Tsalos paid all the travel expenses for Aeginakos and agreed to give another € 5,000 to each of the players from Aeginakos involved in the fix. Aeginiakos had to lose by at least two more goals – they in fact lost 6-0.

And Niopas said Tsalios didn’t pay the cash. Clearly there is no honour in match-fixing.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1558589509labto1558589509ofdlr1558589509owedi1558589509sni@n1558589509osloh1558589509cin.l1558589509uap1558589509