Arrest-evading Greek football club owner who carried gun onto pitch issues apology for 'emotional reaction'



Associated Press

FIFA will send a delegation to Greece today to discuss the country's football crisis, a day after its top league was suspended due to an owner invading the pitch midgame with a gun.

In a letter to the Greek government, FIFA Europe director Bjorn Vassallo said the delegation was due to arrive in Athens later Tuesday to hold talks that included meetings with the Greek soccer federation.

"FIFA demands an uncompromising and robust approach in exterminating all forms of violence in football," Vassallo wrote.

On Monday, the government ordered the suspension of the Greek league after the owner of PAOK Thessaloniki stormed onto the field with a gun holstered to his belt to protest a disallowed goal in a match against AEK Athens.

A public prosecutor ordered a judicial investigation into the incident. The probe by prosecutors in Thessaloniki will also investigate why police allegedly ignored instructions by a prosecutor to arrest PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis on the spot.

FIFA has already warned Greek sporting authorities that failure to implement swift reforms could lead to the country's suspension from international competition.

Savvidis' behavior also provoked PAOK's suspension overnight from the 230-member group of Europe's most influential clubs. The European Club Association said its board voted unanimously to suspend PAOK until a March 27 members' assembly in Rome.

Still evading arrest, Savvidis apologized overnight for what he called an "emotional reaction" to the referee's decision and "the general negative condition in Greek soccer."

In a statement on the club's website, he said his only intention had been "to protect tens of thousands of PAOK fans from provocations and clashes (with) victims."

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