Greeks avoid suspension after cup given go-ahead

By Andrew Warshaw

April 13 – The threat of an international ban on Greek football has been lifted after the government and the Greek FA (EPO) reached an 11th-hour agreement with FIFA to restart the domestic cup competition.

Last week Greece was given a 10-day ultimatum to stop government interference in its footballing affairs or risk a worldwide ban after refusing to reinstate the cup competition, scrapped by the authorities in March because of crowd trouble.

The tournament 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.

FIFA gave the Greeks until April 15 to reverse the decision and a compromise has now been reached, with Greek officials seemingly backing down after intensive talks.

FIFA spokesman Kostakis Koutsokoumnis told reporters that Deputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis, who had been digging in his heels, had agreed the EPO would ask for the cup competition to resume and that a deal would be done on how the remaining games would be run to avoid security problems.

Koutsokoumnis, who is also president of the Cyprus Football Association, said: ” We have reached an agreement, there is a commitment to begin the Cup again. The matches may be held outside Athens and/or without spectators, or perhaps with only schoolchildren in the stands. This is something which will be decided between Mr Kontonis and the EPO.”

A suspension would have risked Greek hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup as they could have been barred from taking part in the qualifiers that begin in September.

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