Greek league put on hold after gun furore

Ivan Savvides, Russian-born Greek businessman and owner of Paok Salonika, carrying what appeared to be a gun in a holster. He entered the pitch accompanied by bodyguards after the referee disallowed a goal by his side against AEK Athens, whose player
Ivan Savvides, Russian-born Greek businessman and owner of Paok Salonika, carrying what appeared to be a gun in a holster. He entered the pitch accompanied by bodyguards after the referee disallowed a goal by his side against AEK Athens, whose players walked off in protest. The Greek league has suspended all football action until a code of conduct is agreed upon.PHOTO: REUTERS

ATHENS • Greece indefinitely suspended its Super League yesterday, after the owner of Paok Salonika was filmed wearing a gun holster as he stormed onto the pitch to protest against a disallowed goal on Sunday.

Photographs and footage showed Ivan Savvides, one of Greece's richest men, joining a pitch invasion in the closing minutes of a clash with Athens side AEK with what appeared to be a handgun strapped to his waist.

"We have decided to interrupt the championship... It won't start again unless there is a clear framework, agreed by all, to move forward with conditions and rules," Greek Deputy Culture and Sports Minister Georgios Vassiliadis said.

He said the suspension was indefinite until all involved agreed on a code of conduct and rules.

"On our part, much tighter rules on issues of security," he added.

Savvides, accompanied by bodyguards, walked onto the pitch at Thessaloniki twice on Sunday, once wearing an overcoat, the second time with the coat off and his holster in plain view.

He did not pull out a weapon. He was held back at one point as he and others remonstrated with the referee, who had disallowed a goal from Paok's Fernando Varela in the 89th minute. Up till then, the match had been goal-less.

Paok were declared the winners after the referee reversed his decision two hours after the game and allowed the goal to stand.

Police said they wanted to question Savvides for unauthorised entry onto the pitch. The police statement did not mention a weapon.

A police source said the Paok boss was licensed to carry a firearm.

Greek football has been plagued by pitch invasions and violence on and off the pitch.

A derby between Paok and Olympiakos was called off last month, after Olympiakos coach Oscar Garcia was hit by a roll of paper thrown from the stands.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2018, with the headline 'Greek league put on hold after gun furore'. Print Edition | Subscribe