During joint statements with UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced new measures on Wednesday to eliminate football hooliganism in Greece.
A broad meeting had taken place earlier between Mitsotakis and Čeferin as well as government ministers and owners of major Greek football clubs Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK, and PAOK. This meeting was in the aftermath of the recent violence instigated by Croatian Dinamo Zagreb hooligans. It cost the life of Greek football fan Michalis Katsouris outside AEK’s stadium in Athens on August 7th.
“The plague that hooliganism is”
The new measures announced by the Greek Premier are, first of all, the shutdown of local organized football fan clubs across the country. Secondly, the Hellenic Police will be assigned to safeguard organized fans’ gates at stadiums. The police will be empowered to carry out checks at gates whenever deemed necessary.
UEFA President Čeferin referred to hooligans as “people with idiotic ideas” who are “using football matches for crime activities” and declared himself determined to help eliminate hooliganism, which he called “the cancer of football.”
“Imagine what kind of person you should be to attack another person because the other person wears a different shirt,” Čeferin said.
Hinting at the Croatian President’s recent statements about the judicial handling of the Greek football fan’s murder case, Mitsotakis pointed out that the Greek justice system is independent and will not accept “suggestions by voices from outside, even if those voices are official voices.”
“Our support for Michalis’ [the murdered victim’s] family turns into a slogan of action against this plague [hooliganism] that poisons sports and our societies, even the relations between our states, as we saw recently,” Mitsotakis commented.
Shutdown of local Greek football fan clubs
The meeting between Mitsotakis and Čeferin started at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday at the Maximos Mansion in Athens. The two were later joined by the competent ministers of the Greek government and the owners of the major Greek football clubs, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK, and PAOK, as previously mentioned.
According to the Prime Minister, the football club owners agreed that the entrance through the organized fans’ gates at the stadiums be passed to the jurisdiction of the Hellenic Police. Such a measure will protect the owners’ investments first and foremost. Until now, any screening had been left up to the clubs’ security teams.
Mitsotakis spoke of the operational failure of the Hellenic Police in permitting the Croatian hooligans’ organized arrival in Athens. It has been determined that the Croatians were the instigators to the August 7th deadly violence. The PM pledged to prevent such an incident from happening again.
An additional decision has been taken to shut down all local Greek football fan clubs. Instead, only a single centralized fans’ association per football club will be permitted by law. This club will be housed at each football club’s headquarters as legally mandated.
“I hope that the Greek state will not be forced to activate the ultimate measure, which will be the temporary exclusion of Greek clubs from the European football club competitions,” the Greek Premier warned.
Hooliganism is a problem for all of Europe, not only Greece
Violence and hooliganism is not just a problem of Greece. It is a problem of all of Europe, Čeferin and Mitsotakis observed.
“From Scandinavia to Portugal, to Turkey and all the other parts of Europe, we have to all work together, not just in the European Union probably, [but] maybe even on the level of the Council of Europe,” Čeferin told reporters.
“We agree with [the] Prime Minister that enough is enough,” the UEFA President concluded. “We have to stop this and we will stop this. We will do everything we can so that this terrible incident, and incidents like that, never happen again. We are determined.”