ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s top soccer league has been suspended for a third time this season because of continued violence at matches.
Stavros Kontonis, the deputy minister for sport in Greece’s new left-wing government, said Wednesday that the decision would be reviewed next week, but that games would again be called off if clubs failed to respond to government demands for improved security.
The action followed weekend violence at a league match between rivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, and a brawl between officials of the two clubs on Tuesday at a board meeting of league organizers.
“This violence is an insult to all of us and our national heritage,” Kontonis said after meeting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “When it comes to addressing the issue of violence in football, we will be unrelenting.”
Kontonis previously told Tsipras in televised remarks that “drastic measures” were required to pressure the 18 clubs in the top league to introduce improved security, including smart-card ticketing and security camera systems at matches. League organizers had committed to introducing such measures several years ago.
The Greek league has already been suspended twice this season because of violence, and the government said it had taken Wednesday’s decision after consulting with top football officials and a police department that deals with major crimes.
There was no immediate reaction from Greek clubs.
Giorgos Borovilos, chairman of the topflight Super League, expressed his opposition to the government’s tough line after a meeting with Kontonis — before the decision was formally announced.
“I stressed that this is not an adequate solution to deal with the problems facing Greek football. But he was unrelenting,” he told reporters.
“I am not blind. There are problems and responsibilities in football … But they should be dealt with through dialogue and application of the law.”
Olympiakos currently leads the league with 58 points from 25 matches, three clear of second-place Panathinaikos.