Gun-carrying PAOK boss faces disciplinary charges


ATHENS — PAOK Salonika President Ivan Savvides Wednesday faced disciplinary charges that could lead to a lengthy stadium ban and a points deduction for his team, after he stormed onto the pitch with what appeared to be a handgun on his waist.

The Georgia-born businessman’s pitch invasion Sunday triggered a suspension of football matches in Greece with world soccer’s governing body FIFA in town for talks.

In a brief statement, the Greek football federation said Savvides had been charged with a series of football code violations, including making threats, which carry a fine and a potential stadium ban of up to five years.

The top division Superleague’s disciplinary body will now be responsible for any further action, a league official said.

Savvides’ team could also be punished with a points deduction which could put it out of the running for the title which it was competing for before Sunday’s match.

The charges were announced as Herbert Huebel, who heads a monitoring committee set up by FIFA last year for Greek football, met Deputy Culture and Sport Minister Georgios Vassiliadis and federation officials.

Greece has indefinitely suspended matches after Savvides was filmed wearing a holster which appeared to contain a gun as he strode onto the pitch to protest about a PAOK disallowed goal against AEK Athens at the weekend.

The game was abandoned and later awarded to PAOK 1-0 following the controversial goal which had prompted the initial protests.

Savvides apologized for his actions in a club statement on Tuesday but the European Club Association (ECA) suspended the Greek side as a member with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, Greece’s top division Tuesday opposed the suspension of all Superleague soccer fixtures over crowd trouble, saying it threatened the clubs’ very existence.

“The suspension does not bring anything,” Superleague President Giorgos Stratos told reporters.

“It creates a grave danger and we are possibly moving away from our aims and objectives.”

“The suspension does not benefit anyone or anything. The suspension cancels out anything positive that has been done. The suspension endangers the entire sport of football beyond the financial consequences.”

Stratos said he had asked for the “quickest possible resumption” of matches but no date had been yet decided.

Savvides was born in Georgia of Greek heritage. He has holdings in assets ranging from Thessaloniki port to tobacco and media companies, many of them in northern Greece.

Greek soccer has been plagued by pitch invasions and violence on and off the pitch for years and authorities have repeatedly promised to clean up the game.

However, attendances have dwindled and this season only four clubs in the 16-team top division have posted average attendances of more than 5,000 spectators per league game. — Agencies