Football: Who is PAOK's gun-toting owner?

PAOK president Ivan Savvidis (centre) is escorted out of the pitch during the Greek Superleague football match between PAOK Thessaloniki and AEK Athens in Thessaloniki, on March 11, 2018.
PAOK president Ivan Savvidis (centre) is escorted out of the pitch during the Greek Superleague football match between PAOK Thessaloniki and AEK Athens in Thessaloniki, on March 11, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (AFP) - Greek police have issued a warrant for the arrest of PAOK owner, Greek-Russian businessman Ivan Savvidis, after he stormed the pitch on Sunday (March 11), accompanied by bodyguards, to confront the referee in protest at a 90th-minute disallowed goal in a top-of-the-table football clash against AEK Athens.

A tobacco industrialist with extensive holdings in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Savvidis controls the city's top hotel and recently also bought one of Greece's top newspapers, Ethnos.

The 58-year-old is a former lawmaker with the party of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and is also considered a political ally of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

A police source on Monday said Savvidis was not sought over the gun, for which he has a licence, but for the pitch invasion, a misdemeanour that carries no prison term.

Savvidis, who owns companies that are leading sponsors of the Greek league, defended his behaviour.

"Ivan (Savvidis) didn't threaten anybody with a gun," his media department told Russia's Sport Express newspaper.

"It means that the provocative headlines in certain media are totally untrue.

"He carries weapons as he has a permission for it. It's not prohibited in Greece... Savvidis has allowed himself some excessive emotions but, once again, he didn't threaten anybody with a gun."

Last year, Savvidis was part of a Franco-German consortium that won a bid for the privatisation of the Thessaloniki port authority.

But the deal was postponed after a Russian bank backing him was placed under temporary administration.

In a rare step, the US embassy in Athens later expressed concern over the issue, suggesting a lack of transparency over the funding behind the deal.