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Greek football crisis adds to national blues

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Matt Slater | 15:54 UK time, Monday, 27 June 2011

An economy in pieces, a government caught in the headlights and there are rioters in the streets: it must be difficult for Greeks to believe in anything right now. Oh well, at least there's the football.

What's that you say? A match-fixing scandal, the sport's hierarchy in the dock, the start of the season in doubt...erm, anybody for wrestling?

Monday's slightly sensational revelation that Carlos Tevez has been "inadvertently dragged into" the Greek football crisis is just the latest chapter in a familiar tale of poor governance, sharp practice and brutish criminality. There is, of course, no suggestion of any wrongdoing on Tevez's part but the situation in Greece is dramatically different.

Bochum, Finland, phoney friendlies in Turkey, South Korea - football's match-fixing scandals are coming thick and fast and it is not just football, even sumo-wrestling is crooked now.

Just as performance-enhanced drugs once threatened to entirely destroy professional sport's credibility (and that battle isn't over), the fixers and fraudsters are at the gates now and the defences look very stretched.

But before we survey the entire theatre of operations, I should explain what is happening in Greece a little better, because it is both a particularly shocking case and indicative of how vulnerable sport can be if it ignores the warning signs.

Olympiakos Piraeus president Vangelis Marinakis has been named as a suspect in the match-fixing scandal. Photo: Reuters

Olympiakos Piraeus president Vangelis Marinakis has been named as a suspect in the match-fixing scandal. Photo: Reuters

Greek football's problems were first flagged up two years ago when Uefa sent the Hellenic Football Federation a file detailing 22 second-tier matches, played January-May 2009, which showed evidence of match-fixing.

This evidence came from the European governing body's "Betting Fraud Detection System" (BFDS), a service that uses computer analysis to find suspicious gambling patterns. A second file contained evidence of eyebrow-raising results in Greece's cup competition too.

Uefa watched and waited for a response from the Greek authorities. And then waited some more.

Six months and two further bundles of evidence later, the number of games to fail the BFDS test had grown to 39 and now included top-flight football and many of the country's biggest teams. And still Uefa waited for some flicker of concern in Greece.

Earlier this year, the drachma dropped. Uefa's reports were cropping up in the Greek media and veiled threats of European exile for the country's clubs poked the political class into action. If football could not or would not tackle the issue, perhaps the criminal justice system should.

So, in February, a state prosecutor met four senior officials from Uefa at Athens airport to hear what they had been trying to tell Greek football officials, without much obvious sign of success, for 18 months.

The meeting lasted four hours and during that time the Uefa delegation outlined just how corrupt the country's leagues had become and how worried the Swiss-based organisation was about where Greek football was heading.

This story was broken by the Greek journalist Ferry Batzoglou and he told me this was a game-changing moment. Football had failed to police itself, leaving the way open for politicians and prosecutors to take charge.

The results of that shift were seen last week when Vangelis Marinakis, the president of Olympiakos and Greece's equivalent of the Premier League, was named as a suspect in the match-fixing scandal. His name was the pick of 84 other officials and players already charged, including two other Super League club presidents.

And the list of suspect games has grown to 54, with last season's decider between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, the two most famous teams in Greece, being one of the new additions.

When Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis said this was "the darkest day in the history of Greek football" it was probably the first pronouncement by a politician anybody in the country had entirely agreed with for months.

The Greeks know a thing or two about tragedies so they should be capable of arresting the slow death of professional football (providing they get on with it).

They also have a fine tradition of irony, so the fact the only Super League team not to be mentioned in these dismal dispatches are Iraklis Thessaloniki will not be lost on many.

Iraklis have been relegated from Greece's top flight for various alleged misdemeanours and are now heading to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to reverse this decision.

They have been here before. Iraklis, one of the oldest clubs in the country, took the Greek FA to CAS last year to overturn a fine and are digging in for a long tussle over their demotion.

Greece and Olympiakos defender Avraam Papadopoulos has been named as a suspect

Greece and Olympiakos defender Avraam Papadopoulos has been named as a suspect

The club's lawyers have written to Uefa to demand an investigation into their case, which they claim has got personal for Sofoklis Pilavios, the Greek FA's president.

Whether that is true or not remains to be seen but Pilavios' position has just got weaker. On Monday, the Greek media got hold of a taped conversation between the Greek FA chief and Achilleas Beos, the president of Super League team Olympiakos Volou. Pilavios and Beos, one of the most high-profile names implicated in the anti-corruption sting, appear to be discussing the allocation of referees for top-flight games.

Dr Gregory Ioannidis, the British-based lawyer representing Iraklis, told me this is indicative of how the sport is run in Greece.

"This is threatening to embarrass not only Greece but also European football," he said. "The evidence suggests there is an organised syndicate profiting from illegal betting.

"This could end up being more serious than the Italian scandal (of 2006 that saw Juventus stripped of a Serie A title and relegated to Serie B) because this involves the threat of violence.

"If the authorities do not act, I fear Uefa will ban Greek clubs and the national team from European competition. In terms of sporting sanctions, the framework is clear."

Pilavios has recently called a two-week halt to all football business in Greece in order to deal with the crisis. That pause could become more permanent, though, as the investigation spreads and Iraklis tie the football authorities up in appeals. A punctual start to next season is looking unlikely.

If chaos (another fine Greek word) is the order of the day in Athens, politicians in Brussels are attempting to find some order. The Council of Europe's committee on culture, science and education met over the weekend, calling for "urgent action" to protect sport from illegal gamblers.

Ireland's Cecilia Keaveney, a former senator, put her name to a petition to set up "an international agency to properly preserve the integrity of sport".

"Match-fixing is a clear and present danger," she said. "The need to create an anti-corruption agency is not a debating point, it is inevitable."

Keaveney, and others, are arguing the same conditions that prompted sport and governments to come together to set up the World Anti-Doping Agency a decade ago now exist for corruption. The piecemeal approach just isn't working and the bad guys are winning.

So Greece could provide the tipping point for the unravelling of one multi-national institution and the creation of another.

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about at http://twitter.com/bbc_matt

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Should have read 'It comes to me...'

  • Comment number 3.

    Greece is in a mess. If I was in charge of French banks, I would not be giving them 30 years to pay back loans.

    Some people and institutions will do anything to try and preserve their income and living standard. There comes a point when you need to cut them off and let them survive on their own. This point is coming ever closer for Greek football and possibly for the whole country.

    Trust takes years to build and a second to destroy - there is long journey ahead.

  • Comment number 4.

    "Ireland's Cecilia Keaveney was one of 59 MEPs to put her name to a petition " . Ceceilia is not , nor ever has been an MEP . She was a TD and senator .

  • Comment number 5.

    My friend Kostas, an AEK supporter, has long held that Olympiacos has had more going for it than footballing skills. Matt Slater's article mentions concerns spanning two years but Kostas been telling me about his concerns for a decade. Trouble is it's made him sceptical about the integrity of the game as a whole. He reckons refs are bought in England too. I tell him that that couldn't possibly be true.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think it's a worldwide problem which mainly manifests itself in professional sport. It's now very easy to bet on pretty much anything and where there's money involved, there are problems. Professional sport is, for me at least, becoming sort of irrelevant these days. There is way too much money in many sports now and we're finding out that the honesty and integrity is lacking. Of course, the ones who suffer are the supporters and I just don't know whether it's worth shelling out hard earned cash to watch sport where the protagonists are overpaid, don't try as hard as they should, don't have any real loyalty to the teams they represent and in many cases are actually fixing the outcomes.

  • Comment number 8.

    Without getting on a Moral Soap Box, Betting not only allows the Sports to indulge in corrupt activities, but actually encourages it. Greece are not alone in this terrible predicament. English Football players - in the past - have been 'slapped' for betting, but nowadays they march out onto the pitch with "BET(something).com" plastered across their chests at many different clubs. Snooker is sponsored by a betting 'interest' and so on... and so on... ad nauseum. Bookies should simply NOT be allowed to accept bets on such things as the recent "No Balls" happening at specified times in Cricket - that is a flashing neon sign that spells "Corruption Available Here." With so many "little gangs and syndicates" operating without detection, betting is surely almost impossible to Police.

    World-wide Prohibition could not stop it... and the Greeks must now surely be betting on whether their Club sides will be banned from European Competitions.

  • Comment number 9.

    Sadly this has been going on for years. The amount of titles 'bought' by Olympiakos doesnt bare thinking about. Greek football needs a total overhaul now, otherwise it will never be sorted.

    In which other league do you find club presidents taking it in turn to be president of the Superleague?! Ridiculous

  • Comment number 10.

    This won´t be a big problem in Greece the question is what will UEFA do?

    The big problem in Italy was it was watered down and UEFA didn´t so much as slap the wrists of Milan but handed then the keys to the castle allowing them play in the Champions League........JOKE......which they then won!! Go figure.

    Football is slowly becoming a Joke. FIFA this year was incredible and UEFA will continue. I still find it incredible that UEFA were able to introduce a new rule to seed the play-off matches for the last WC qualification, when it was clear France and Portugual were going to the play-offs.

    However Greece have not always been so lucky....they were banned from the World Cup many years ago for fielding an over aged player. Brazil did the same thing but it was swept under the carpet.


  • Comment number 11.

    The truth is that the smaller the interest on a national league like Greece's ,the smaller the coverage on TV.You don't have the slightest idea of what refereeing decisions we have seen in Greece, giving Olympiakos 12 titles in 14 years.(On youtube you can search for the Katsouranis goal that was ruled offside on this season's second round derby and you will understand).It was at this match that Beos telephoned Marinakis after the game and asked to offer protection to the referee and the assistant that ruled out Katsourani's goal ,worried that they would be attacked by Panathinaikos fans.So after 15 years of football dictatorship mainly leaded by Olympiakos Piraeus(there is another Olympiakos accused also named Olympiakos Volou) UEFA has almost forced the greek authorities to start a professional search using the "SUPERBUG" (a machine which was bought for the 2004 Olympics and has the power to scan any telephone conversation in any area).The results of that investigation we are currently seeing and STILL there is a fear that the whole thing will be covered again.I say again because in 2002 there was a similar investigation by a top greek journalist (Makis Triantafillopoulos) that unveiled conversations accusing Olympiakos of bribing referees.The reaction of the greek sports justice was to start calling witnesses after 3.5 years and eventually closing the case without a single conviction.So to many British who wonder why PL teams have such a huge following base around the world is because in other countries local fans are looking for a decent and honest championship that they can't get in their countries(at least one of the reasons).I urge the BBC and the British media to follow the matter closely ,cause it will be like some kind of "pressure" for the local authorities to deliver some justice.I'm finally veru curious about UEFA's reaction ,because Olympiakos is allready in CL group stages and i can't imagine a team which is officialy involved in the fixing scandal taking part in the competition.The next 2 months will be very interesting indeed.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Where will it end??

  • Comment number 14.

    dare i say it, the greecing of palms.

  • Comment number 15.

    The sports have to take some responsibility for the carpet, sweep, under thinking.

    John Higgins, the snooker player, for what he did bang to rights should have been banned for life and I don't care whether he actually threw a shot/game. His excuse/defence/reason for that taped conversation was laughable.

    John Higgins is the current world champion. Great advert for snooker.

    If UEFA were that concerned that the Greek FA weren't taking their concerns seriously for well over a year, why did they do nothing.

    If I'm under investigation for something at work, I'm suspended until an outcome, guilty or not.

  • Comment number 16.

    Well, not only chaos is 'another fine Greek word'.... Let's see how many Greek words I can get from this article:
    Economy, hierarchy, crisis, practice, criminality, dramatically, theatre, problems, system, analysis, class, police, politician, scandal, history, tragedies, irony, anti-, organised, profiting, pause, Europe, decade...

    And get over it! Corruption in not only present in Hellas, but all around the world.

  • Comment number 17.

    Greek football has always had its problems. One of them is evident in the comments here. Some greek fans are more interested in blaming Olympiakos than seeing the mess cleared up. Petty rivalries and the blame game will solve nothing.

    Also, some people have very weak memories. A very famous goalkeeper playing for a great English club in the eighties was found guilty of similar activities. Five years ago a Premier league match was postponed because the power was cut off by people working for a far-eastern betting syndicate.

    And these are the things we know. Consider what happened in Italy and Germany and you can easily deduce that there surely is much more we don't know about in the "beautiful game". Where there's obscene amounts of money, there will always be corruption.

  • Comment number 18.

    Words of wisdom by goalie_up_front:

    "If I was in charge of French banks, I would not be giving them 30 years to pay back loans..."

    No, if you were in charge of French banks, you would force a Greek default which would wipe off your banks' capital, cause a broad financing run on French banks, which would spread to the rest of Europe and subsequently spell the end of the euro...good job!

    You know, maybe your willingness to openly insult millions of Greeks just for kicks is part of the reason why you will never be in charge of French banks...ignorance is bliss, but try to keep it to yourself next time will you?

  • Comment number 19.

    @RedIsaac, sure there have been games that have been suspect in England and Germany over the last decade, but not 54 in a span of a few years!

    Additionally the goalkeeper in question was found that a case could not be made and the charges were thrown out. That said it was a very mucky incident and basically ruined his career and bankrupted him. Hopefully if the same path is lead by Olypiakos and those actually found guilty then they to will suffer a huge fall.

    Suffice to say Greek Football should be cut off from European competition until they get their act sorted.

  • Comment number 20.

    @Scoustralian. First let me clarify that I have nothing against the club the goalkeeper played for. On the contrary, I support them (that's where the Red comes from).

    Also, I am not implying that corruption is the same everywhere. What I am saying is that there is much more than what we know about and serious action needs to be taken.

    I don't know that throwing greek clubs out of Europe will help. I think that arresting and convicting the individuals involved is more effective. I always take the view that a club and its fans should not be punished for the actions of corrupt boards or players.

    The same is true for clubs that overspend. I feel very sorry for Leeds and Portsmouth fans and their predicament. It wasn't their fault that they had irresponsible owners and chief executives. It would be much better if the people responsible got to pay for their actions rather than the clubs and their fans.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks Matt.

    I can't wait for the Greek courts to deal with this a la the case against the sprinters which only took 7 years or so. That said, part from the football match-fixing and the drugged up sprinters, everything else seems to be going well in Greece right now so mustn't grumble.

  • Comment number 22.

    I could naively say 'when will they learn that winning through cheating is pointless?'....but then I'm forgetting how much cash is made from fiddling...

  • Comment number 23.

    Adonisny... I think he protesteth to much!

    Greek default would not place my country in any serious harm. The Greek economy is not big enough to create such a problem. I guess having a great history and heritage is causing you to overstate your importance.

    For a country where there is clearly documented tax evasion on a massive scale, to demand support and help from others to prop up it's broken economy is cheeky at best. When I see this nation accepting it's responsibility and its people accepting that they have to contribute fully then I will have some sympathy and will welcome financial aid. Until that time it is just throwing good money after bad.

    You seem to be complaining about the fact that I have brought this up. Perhaps this kind of thing is just too embarassing for some to accept. Perhaps the evidence of match rigging is too much to accept. Perhaps taking responsibility is too much to accept.

    30 years will not be long enough - 20 years and then Bono will be round to convince France and the IMF to cancel the debt - then the whole cycle will start again.... unless

  • Comment number 24.

    I wonder what Homer would dsay about all this...

  • Comment number 25.

    It's so dumb to fix sports, it kills them off because eventually the fans find out and then stop going. I live in Taiwan; about 10-15 years ago there was a thriving Baseball league, after a series of match fixing scandals there are only four teams left in the league and hardly anyone bothers going to watch because they think what they see is fake.

  • Comment number 26.

    Greek football has been in a mess for a very long time now. For the past 15 years or so, league titles were handed out by default before each season started. One team, olympiakos pireus, was (is?) controlling the football association, the referee body, and has managed to establish a group of 9-10 satellite teams, that each year are guaranteed to be safe from relegation, and in return each offer 6 points from their 2 games to olympiakos pireus. That is the reason that even though olympiakos have been winning all titles for the past 15 years, they always get humiliated when playing in Europe (referees much harder to bribe there!).
    Everyone was aware of all these thing happening, now they just became official.

    P.S. Something tells me that even this time, nothing will happen. The Greek FA will hand punishments to olympiakos volou and their owner Mbeos in order to please some of the fans, and “forget” all about the real criminals here, olympiakos pireus and their owner marinakis.

    P.S.1 good job BBC for publicizing this article. I hope to see a number to follow up articles, only with sufficient pressure from outside Greece, Greek football can be cleaned up

  • Comment number 27.

    You are fooling yourselves if you think the Greeks will deal with this properly ... the difference between the Greek and Italian federations, is that the Italians wanted to clean up their highest league before it was too late ... they therefore took hard decision against big clubs (some might even say not hard enough). The Greek federation on the other hand is broke (like the rest of the country), and doesn't want to clean itself up. It requires UEFA to ban their clubs from European competition for a minimum of five years (how long were English teams banned for?) and then told that if there was even a hint of a problem at the end of that period, a further five years would be imposed.

    Sometimes tough love is the only medicine, the Greek federation needs the UEFA sanctions and the threat of worse to come, in order to clean their house .... otherwise under the same carpet as the tax receipts, goes the problem.

  • Comment number 28.

    British clubs were banned for hooliganism at Heysel...two totally different situations.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm a fan of Iraklis Thessaloniki ... What is happening in Greece for many years is the worst thing is the championship of the world ... Specific some football players and not only groups, on systematically games or their group or another. ..
    everyone knows that these groups (1st Olympiakos, Panathinaikos 2nd) work as work but nobody can touch them! The last 10 years apart from their own teams dealing with other groups in which presidents are friends ...
    and we have come to participate in all of this over almost all the championship teams ... team irakli negative to participate in such irregularities and behold the reason for 5-6 years fought by many in football chief.This year all this type brings to light only comes accused Iraklis ....
    Personally I believe that this goal of the organizers of this league is to get the property group irakli through the demotion and thus will not be able to succeed in having invariably take ....
    Sorry for the bad translation, I
    Sincerely yours, Stelios

    Iraklis Thessaloniki 1908
    103 years history!

    PS. SUPERLEAGUE GREECE IS A FAKE LEAGUE. Thats all.

  • Comment number 30.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWUmodwZo0g

    There is the fans ....Iraklis Thessaloniki Vs Olympiacos Athens

  • Comment number 31.

    17.
    At 22:46 28th Jun 2011, RedIsaac wrote:


    Greek football has always had its problems. One of them is evident in the comments here. Some greek fans are more interested in blaming Olympiakos than seeing the mess cleared up. Petty rivalries and the blame game will solve nothing.

    Also, some people have very weak memories. A very famous goalkeeper playing for a great English club in the eighties was found guilty of similar activities. Five years ago a Premier league match was postponed because the power was cut off by people working for a far-eastern betting syndicate.

    And these are the things we know. Consider what happened in Italy and Germany and you can easily deduce that there surely is much more we don't know about in the "beautiful game". Where there's obscene amounts of money, there will always be corruption
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    There's never any room for complacency but when it comes to the suggestion of match-fixing in english football it's telling that people have to go back to 1995 and Segers, Fashanu and Grobbelaar.

    I don't think there is widespread corruption in english football and certainly not at the top.

    The biggest problems of this type exist in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Far East, areas of the world where there is not a strong infrastructure of football and corruption is endemic from the top to the bottom. And the western european country where this occurred to a serious level was Italy- where there is a history of match fixing and mafia involvement.

    Organised crime is heavily involved in fixing football matches, by intimidation of referees and players.

    The shadiest characters in english football are the agents- but they are creaming off so much cash from transfers that the money is in those deals for these profiteers and not in match fixing, where the risk of being caught and damage to careers is too great.

    Abramovich wouldn't be paying £50m for crocked strikers like Torres if he could pay off the refs and opponents.

  • Comment number 32.

    24.At 02:48 29th Jun 2011, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:
    I wonder what Homer would dsay about all this...

    Probably Doh!

  • Comment number 33.

    mention facts and this site don’t like it then so how about Mr Vidic i guess it should have been no penalty and no booking at the league cup final with the villa will this statement get past the moderator as the original comment I made was a reply to Pathlets

  • Comment number 34.

    It's ironic that problems with inadequate regulation and oversight in both the economic and football spheres should come to a head simultaneously in Greece. However, we would be foolish to be complacent about the potential for similar problems to arise elsewhere, or even in the UK. What the events of the last few years have illustrated is that light touch regulation is a recipe for corruption or reckless behaviour, in football, in banking, or in whatever.

    Let's all give three cheers for red tape! We may hate it, but it takes naivety or self-denial to imagine that we can do without it.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    33.
    At 10:27 29th Jun 2011, wildkev wrote:


    mention facts and this site don’t like it then so how about Mr Vidic i guess it should have been no penalty and no booking at the league cup final with the villa will this statement get past the moderator as the original comment I made was a reply to Pathlets
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    If you're referring to the League Cup Final in 2010 then I have to say that the referee on that occasion did a very poor job of handing the trophy to Man Utd seeing as he booked Vidic and gave Aston Villa a penalty. The debate was whether Vidic should have seen red according to interpretation of the situation. We see these every season and people have to accept that referees are sometimes lenient, sometimes cowardly and sometimes make mistakes- that is not corruption. Two different things.

    The problem with debates about corruption is that immediately rabid fans seize on it as an excuse to explain all kinds of things, including events which disappointed them. Were the officials corrupt when Lampard scored that 'goal' against Germany in the World Cup which would have made it Germany 2-2 England? Sometimes officials just make mistakes. Without the help of technology, that can happen too.

  • Comment number 38.

    This article not only concerns Greek football, but also UEFAs policing of European football. So how my comments were deemed to break the house rules defeats me. In case anyone is wondering - my comments relate to UEFAs ability to govern European football. Slightly tangential perhaps - but hardly off-topic seeing that there is a possibility of Greek teams being banned by UEFA.

  • Comment number 39.

    The Greek FA needs to follow the example set by the Sky/Premier League association in England.

    The fixtures are released early after been approved by a red nosed, fast chewing manager. These fixtures are of course subject to change depending on who may/or may not be challenging for the league.

    Strong referees like Howard Webb are picked for the 'big' games where a crucial penalty or red card decision may be required. Mark Clattenberg is an able ref as well who is never afraid to give (or not give) a big decision if it has been required. I am sure that these refs are well paid and Howard Webb in particular is often considered an MVP in the title race.

    Prawn sarnies are sold, the customers pay big bucks and everyone is happy. Come on Greece follow the English way................. ;)

  • Comment number 40.

    39.
    At 12:19 29th Jun 2011, JamTay1 wrote:


    The Greek FA needs to follow the example set by the Sky/Premier League association in England.

    The fixtures are released early after been approved by a red nosed, fast chewing manager. These fixtures are of course subject to change depending on who may/or may not be challenging for the league.

    Strong referees like Howard Webb are picked for the 'big' games where a crucial penalty or red card decision may be required. Mark Clattenberg is an able ref as well who is never afraid to give (or not give) a big decision if it has been required. I am sure that these refs are well paid and Howard Webb in particular is often considered an MVP in the title race.

    Prawn sarnies are sold, the customers pay big bucks and everyone is happy. Come on Greece follow the English way................. ;)

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I'll give you an example of something that happened in the Liverpool-Man Utd game this year, Carragher's shin-high lunge at Nani before half time. The Liverpool player should have been sent off and it was worse than anything Mascherano or Gerrard had done when receiving red cards against Utd. But it was at Anfield, the player who was hurt was Nani who has a reputation as a drama queen, and the referee was lenient. It was a mistake. And you will see incidents like that involving all teams throughout a season. It is not an example of organised corruption, relating to any kind of conspiracy.

    A lot of people ask what the motivation is for players and referees to work to fix football matches and always assume it is financial gain. Sir Ales Ferguson's 'hair dryer treatment' is one thing but imagine being on the end of a guy who is holding a gun to your head if you don't go along with what he says or threatening to break your knee caps and end the possibility of you continuing your livelihood if you don't do what is required in a certain match. That's the reality of corruption in football in places like Eastern Europe. It's a serious issue, and not really one to be trivialised.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    So my comment (#1) was modded, but the exact same thing is said in #23.

    All I did was regurgitate details I read about on a BBC news page, and it gets pulled.

    Why do you think that country is in the state it is? Did they loose €100bn down the back of a sofa? Or is it the fact that people retire at what, 50, having spent most of their working lives getting paid in cash? The state cannot sustain that.

    You lot need to sort this out.

    Pathetic.

  • Comment number 44.

    Afternoon all, thanks for reading and thanks also for contributing to a good debate. Here are some quick replies from me (in reverse order):

    JamTay1 (39) - V good but I can't possibly comment, especially as that gum-chewing manager is going to be our nearest neighbour when we move to Salford Quays later this year.

    alarch (38) - Sorry you were mod-ed - I don't know what you wrote - but you're right to say the Greek case raises serious questions for European football. I also like your point about a little bit of regulation being no bad thing. The key thing is that it is effective regulation.

    vox populi (31) - You're right to talk about complacency. We are not immune/spotless here at all. In recent seasons there have been scams involving floodlight malfunctions, match-fixing in lower league/non-league football and even youth footballers being targeted by betting syndicates.

  • Comment number 45.

    Stelios (29) - The Iraklis situation seems remarkable to me but I need to be careful as I don't have all the facts. The club's lawyer, however, seems very credible and is confident that the club will prevail at CAS. And as I understand it, the club's financial problems were largely the fault of the previous regime and the new owners are turning things around.

    Desiderius Erasmus (27) - To be honest, I wrote that line more in hope than expectation. Basically, I was trying to be polite. I do think Greek football can sort this out, though, but it will require genuine leadership from somebody. Uefa could help here by being a critical friend. Bans from European competition might actually be for the best in the long run.

  • Comment number 46.

    G1908 (26) - It's hard for me to say if you're right or wrong about the Olympiakos issue (although it sounds pretty plausible given recent news) because I just don't know enough about Greek football. But the game there clearly has a credibility issue and offering up one sacrificial lamb - Beos - won't be enough.

    billyedgar777 (25) - You're absolutely right, which is why sport, all sport, needs to raise its game. Match-fixing is just as dangerous to sport's health as doping is to the athletes.

    RedIsaac (17) - Yep, you make a number of good points. I do wonder, though, if this is the time to hit any clubs found guilty of cheating very hard (ie a ban). I know the fans suffer too but the long-term benefits will be worth it.

  • Comment number 47.

    As long as the people in charge answer to no-one but their own, then nothing will change.

    And the rot starts at the very top with FIFA - who elected a leader when there was only one option, the others having been yanked because of corruption charges! (Charges, let's remind ourselves, that were dropped not because of innocence, but because the people stepped down... since when did that equate to justice?)

    Maybe this could herald the push towards a european superleague... Italy and Greece certainly can't manage themselves, Spain struggle to keep the separation between state and clubs under control (let alone tackle racism), the German league is dominated by just a couple of clubs who would - i'm sure - prefer the challenge of a decent tournament instead.

    I find it funny that even with all of this going on around the world's football associations, it's ENGLAND that feels the main brunt of UEFA and FIFA's hostility.

    But then, the most corrupt always hate the least. Our FA isn't corrupt, it's just plain useless.

  • Comment number 48.

    petrulina (16) - Rest assured, my respect for the Greek language knows no bounds. But didn't I make the same point as you that this isn't just a Greek problem? I think I'm pretty clear that this is just the latest in a litany of corruption cases to hit sport in recent years. But this is an egregious (lovely Greek word) example and it is happening right now. It could, and this is my main point, be the push European politicians need to get behind the creation of a Wada for corruption.

    Right, that's enough from me. Good luck, Greece, today's TV pictures aren't pretty.

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 50.

    Hope Greece do get banned from european competition. Never seen such negative football as when they attempted to defend their crown in Euro 2008

  • Comment number 51.

    @46 Please don't fall into the myopic trap of believing that everything is rosy within the English game! A short summary of the English bid for the World Cup below!

    Hand bags, hotel rooms and pointless friendlies to play
    But please don't mention corruption within the English FA!
    Prime Minister and Royalty cosying up to Sepp Blatter
    Come visit Wembley and help the Fat Cats get fatter

    Then comes Lord Triestman, Press scandals and of course Panorama
    The English FA freezes and gets lost in the drama!
    The bid process is now run by a bunch of Fifa crooks
    Now let's all look at Russia and Qatar and give them dirty looks

    One thing is as true now as it always has been
    The English consider themselves cleaner than clean
    Amongst all the corruption they are the only honest true Martyrs
    And that's why the World Cups going to Russia and Qatar!

  • Comment number 52.

    50.At 15:29 29th Jun 2011, L-M-R FC wrote:
    Hope Greece do get banned from european competition. Never seen such negative football as when they attempted to defend their crown in Euro 2008
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Bitter much, are we??

    Where was England again in Euro08?? Oh thats right...still living off 1966...in black and white

  • Comment number 53.

    1) IRAKLIS THESSALONIKIS= WHO OLD ASSOCIATION OF GREECE AND ALONE THAT YOU DO NOT INVOLVE NOWHERE IN THE SCANDALS OF GREEK FOOTBALL
    2) IT WAS OUTSIDE DEGRADED BY THE FIGHTS FOR WHAT PRECISELY IT DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN THE INTERWINING OF FIGHTS
    3) GREEK FOOTBALL FEDERATION AND HER CHAIRMAN SOPHOCLES PILABIOS IS SUSPECT FOR ENTANGLEMENT IN THE SCANDALS.
    4) THESE SAME THEY WILL JUDGE THE SENTENCES IN THE TEAMS THAT ARE INVOLVED IN THE SCANDALS OF GREEK FOOTBALL
    THE FRAUD IN ALL THE GREATNESS...
    STAVROS FROM GREECE!!!

  • Comment number 54.

    not really sure what 51 is on about, but i'd love you to demonstrate how the English FA is corrupt. They're not sharp enough to be corrupt.

    Certainly, the world cup bid was an English attempt to ingratiate ourselves with some slimey characters and does us no favours.

    That we miserably failed to make ourselves stand out in such a game - with a bid which was far superior to both the winning bids (how has the Greek legacy gone, btw?) - is, on the other hand, to our huge credit.

  • Comment number 55.

    Always been going on in Greece. I was living there 12 years ago and used to bet on the ProPo, where you had to predict the results of 11, 12 or 13 games out of 13. It worked on a Tote system. It wasn't unusual for all 13 to pay peanuts because virtually the whole country knew what the results were going to be.
    It all backfires on everybody because you only get hardcore hooligans going to matches, much of the stadiums are empty.
    When I was there, the number of times Olympiakos won 1-0 at home from a penalty seemed ridiculous.

  • Comment number 56.

    27.At 08:43 29th Jun 2011, Desiderius Erasmus wrote:
    You are fooling yourselves if you think the Greeks will deal with this properly ... the difference between the Greek and Italian federations, is that the Italians wanted to clean up their highest league before it was too late ... they therefore took hard decision against big clubs (some might even say not hard enough). The Greek federation on the other hand is broke (like the rest of the country), and doesn't want to clean itself up.
    ----------------------------------------
    The problem with Calciopoli is that it didn't clean up the Italian game. It made a scapegoat of Juventus, and 2 of its directors, whilst the real powers in the game were completely let off (as they essentially controlled the sporting trial). To this day no evidence of match fixing involving Juventus has been shown to exist. Not many outside of Italy know that though because of the power of the corrupt system.

    Looking at thie blog, and the comments, I see a similar situation in some aspects. Some clubs are powerful, and have been untouchable, whilst others are made scapegoats to deflect attention. I'm referring to the Iraklis case in all of this. I just wish Juventus had defended themselves in 2006 like Iraklis are doing now. Instead they jumped into bed with the powers.

  • Comment number 57.

    What is going in Greece is a kind of social experiment. Olympiakos runs 3 newspapers and they succesfully control the public.The truth is that after 1996 there have been many complaints about their relations with the refs and their numerous titles. Also their former owner mr. Kokalis is a very questioned personality, related with many scandals that took place in Greece.Now mr.Marinakis seems to follow his steps,however the public opinion seems to be more alert because the newspapers controlled by them have lost their integrity.

  • Comment number 58.

    Nice article Matt I'm glad you are reporting on this.

    I am a lifelong Larissa F.C fan now living in the UK. We recently appointed Chris Coleman as our manager :)

    The problem in Greek football at the moment is that everyone is looking out for themselves. The game itself technically is of a good standard but is tarnished by the propaganda and media frenzy in Athens which breeds hatred and violence in the stands and subsequently is channeled down to the officials. Combined with the bullying from the so called money men (crooks) we are where we are.

    The man in question Achileas Beos has been known for sometime to be a crook. He is president of our geographic rivals Olympiakos bolou and former chairman of Panionios which has close ties with olympiakos and Marinakis. A horrible man, no respect, no knowledge of football, no success in the game, a hypocrite and I'm glad to see him behind bars after he mocked our team's new stadium publicly.

    The evidence is shocking so far and reading some of the recorded conversations that have been published to the public, makes me feel ashamed and sad for the real fans that want to watch an honest game of football.

    Granted Greece has its problems, and there is a misconception that people dont work hard etc but I can assure you there are people that work hard all week to follow their team in the league with what little money they have. To these people a corrupt football is more upseting than a return to the Drachma.

    After todays national TV channel ERT pulling out of the football coverage, my worry is that the Sky equivalent Nova will take over all the rights to show games etc leading to privatization and forcing people to subscribe to their service. My only hope is that people wont pay the money and return to the stadiums instead but that will only happen if the football is made clean.

    I really believe this time that UEFA pressures and uproar by the public will lead to justice for us the fans.

    Lets hope a clearance of the current team crooks wont simply be replaced by a new set.

    If banning teams from Europe is the way forward then so be it, but the problem is local not European and Greek football needs its European neighbours and friends to show it the way in organised football....They need to do more research on other setups and how they work.




  • Comment number 59.

    @ 39. JamTay1:

    LoL, beat me to it!

    When people ask me how a Greek boy, raised in Australia became a Liverpool FC supporter, I always respond; when I was young my father would talk about the great teams of the 70s/80s like Ajax, Liverpool, etc. And well Liverpool just stuck. Then they would ask; "Sure, but why no Greek teams?" to which I would reply "My father told me the league was corrupt and shouldn't waste my time!"

    Man, I should listen to that guy more often!

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    Dear Matt, I would like to ask you if you are aware of what the "alleged misdemeanors" that drove Iraklis to relegate was? According to the Greek authorities, it was the alleged use of a falsified document in order to illegally obtain the right to sign new players during the transfer period in January 2011. Would that be considered as a "misdemeanor" in the UK?
    Also I would like to ask if your only source of information regarding this issue was Dr Ioannidis? If yes, wouldn't you consider this as "one-sided"?

    PS I don't even want to mention the gigantic financial problems they face
    PS-2 I am more than sure that you'll receive a few angry mails from Iraklis's fans. No wonder why ... truth is always bitter.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    Yiannis ---- but if they was banned from europe would these guys not try to take over Omonia , Apoel ,Apollon seeing how close the two countries are in sooooo many ways ????? just thinking thats all

  • Comment number 65.

    To the unbelievably wise goalie_up_front:
    "Adonisny... I think he protesteth to much!" -oh cool, you know a popular quote from Hamlet...still wrong I'm afraid.

    "Greek default would not place my country in any serious harm. The Greek economy is not big enough to create such a problem" - get some training in banking and you will understand why your banks can go insolvent in an instant even if the defaults do not wipe out their entire capital...like I said, it doesn't seem likely you will ever be in charge of anything important, but it's still a good idea to try to be informed before you mention things like that.

    " I guess having a great history and heritage is causing you to overstate your importance." - no it doesn't, but the balance sheets of your banks and a few hundred years of economic history do. Thank you for the compliment though.

    "For a country where there is clearly documented tax evasion on a massive scale, to demand support and help from others to prop up it's broken economy is cheeky at best. When I see this nation accepting it's responsibility and its people accepting that they have to contribute fully then I will have some sympathy and will welcome financial aid. Until that time it is just throwing good money after bad"- a ton of fraud, I agree. Suggesting that the whole nation is responsible is just making it easy for you to make sense of it all, but it doesn't make you right. By the way, did it ever occur to you that the protesters accept austerity, but perhaps have a hard time accepting the unequal distribution of the burden that the austerity measures place on them? Did it ever occur to you that much of what goes in the details (of which you are for sure not aware) is bad economic policy? Also, you keep referring to things like "support" and "financial aid" as if this is all given to Greece merely on account of the big heart of European nations...it's the banking system, please try to get this will you? Also, since you are high on responsibility, if a bank makes a bad uncollateralized loan and the borrower defaults, shouldn't the bank take responsibility for its bank lending decisions (lax screening, etc...)? Apparently not if it's not a Greek bank...

    "You seem to be complaining about the fact that I have brought this up. Perhaps this kind of thing is just too embarassing for some to accept. Perhaps the evidence of match rigging is too much to accept. Perhaps taking responsibility is too much to accept." - I accept it all, happy now? What I am complaining about is (a) your throwing every Greek in the same spit bucket (b) still living in a fairytale with Alice in Wonderland and assuming that everyone is out to help Greece because their upbringing taught them it's the good thing to do...it is not charity, especially not if you look at the interest rates, and if the European bankers didn't stand to lose a ton they wouldn't care about Greece at all...again, please try to read more on banking, you may one day get it.

    "30 years will not be long enough - 20 years and then Bono will be round to convince France and the IMF to cancel the debt - then the whole cycle will start again.... unless..." - Bono will be too old by then, pick somebody younger and your punchline may seem somewhat less ridiculous than it now does.

    I won't respond again, but this has been fun. The quote was lovely too

  • Comment number 66.

    Well, why don't you all Brits do something about your country like maybe reduce your deficit, or even reduce crime if you like and stop moaning and criticizing my country.
    One thing is for sure, Greece is the best country and you all know it, that's why you keep moan about it!
    Get a life...

  • Comment number 67.

    Perhaps they need to try 'fixing' games in the Champions League as well. That way Greek sides might not get routinely thrashed by everyone.

  • Comment number 68.

    The Greek ---- dont be silly greece is in the micky mouse money club not us and our rate of interest is only 3.5% not the 16.5% like you have ? oh and if it had not been for the city states of Athens Macedonia and Sparta maybe no one would have heard of greece untill it was formed in 1832 after a barny with the Otterman Empire ,but if greece is the best country s you say ???? how come so many are at British universitys. so maybe after giving you a brief outlay of greek tribal and formation of country history you can get a life ...........

  • Comment number 69.

    I'd like to add that Iraklis are NOT clean and are just as bad as all the rest with dirty owners and dirty papers to cover dirty business. They also illegally signed players during a transfer ban for unpaid taxes. So this argument does not hold any water.

  • Comment number 70.

    Dear Matt, I would really love to hear your opinion about the things I asked you in comment #62. Do you know what was Iraklis's "misdemeanor"? Do you know that it was related with the use of a falsified document related to unpaid taxes? That they relegate because they used this falsified document to illegally sign players in January 2011?
    Also, I would like to let you know that Iraklis FC is using your blog as a reference in an official press-release claiming that "BBC described the penalty or relegation as an obvious case of injustice" (see [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]Unfortunately, the press-release is only in Greek but I am sure that any impartial Greek can translate it to you (Dr Ioannidis excluded).
    How would you describe this press-release? Lies, maybe?
    Does your opinion in your personal blog reflects BBC's opinion?
    How would you describe the use of a falsified document in order to obtain unfair advantage over your opponents? Would that be acceptable if it happened in the UK?

    Thank you for your time.

  • Comment number 71.

    Hi infierno_griego, I've only just seen your post(s) now as I've been busy with other stuff. No, I had no idea that my blog was being used by Iraklis in that way and I'm not entirely happy about the "obvious case of injustice" remark but I'm not angry enough to do anything about it this evening. To answer your earlier questions, I have a reasonable understanding of the allegations against Iraklis and I've heard their defence via Dr Ioannidis. But as I haven't been able to get a comment from the Greek FA (I tried) I chose not to go into that case in any real detail. In fact, I only really refered to them at all because of the apparent irony in them not being part of the match-fixing scandal but being in open dispute with the Greek FA about financial irregularities. Their case is also interesting as it will probably result in the next season starting late as Iraklis will seek injunctions to prevent the Super League from starting without them in it. So I'm not sure the rest of your questions are at all relevant. Cheers, Matt

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    Mr. Slater, surely Iraklis is rightly accused of forging one document, so the club could sign new players in January - something that many other clubs did, but escaped the charges. However, the penalty provided by greek FA for forgery is a fine and possibly a point deduction. Despite this, the administration of the greek superleague (which consists of all the clubs' presidents who are involved in the match fixing scandal) accused Iraklis of defaming the sport (!) which is punished with relegation - and so it was done. So, the irony in the story as you mentioned in your article, is that Iraklis -a small and temporary "crook"- was wiped out by the big and constant fraudsters, charged with defamation of football. Obviously, THEIR football.

    Coming in overall question of greek football, you can detect the problem in fans' comments, such as the one you answered above. In Greece, we demand the application of laws, only when the others are to be punished. When the time comes for us to suffer the consequences of our actions, we try to find a hundred reasons to be excused. In that way, for many years now, a great number of clubs' irregularities and criminal acts (from match fixing to doping cases and from fans' violence to financial crimes) have been covered up - and every time someone in greek football is accused of something, there is a ready excuse for him to be acquitted as well.

    You could say that this should also apply to our case - and all Iraklis fans should accept demotion (the one coming from non-obtaining an UEFA licence, because the other one is illegal). I could agree with that, only if -for the first time ever- every club which committed a crime in any way will be punished as well. Otherwise, you will agree that we have every right to be angry and asking for the overturn of the decision. It is reasonable that in professional football, any club would try to protect itself from selective application of regulations, especially if it tries to survive in a league of highly unfair competition.

    Finally, I would like to assure you that the reference to your blog (and to BBC in general) in Iraklis FC press-release was in a completely positive way. It was made in order to show to greek public media that there are also foreign reporters who are aware of the situation in greek football and are puzzled as to how this case is handled by the greek football officials.


    Thank you for your time and for highlighting the problems of my club and greek football.

    An Iraklis Thessaloniki fan

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    Allow me not to fall in the trap of linking the Greek fixed games scandal with the financial crisis in the country, but just to focus on the core issue.

    Here is a bitty of translation of the recorded, by the police, dialog between the owner of Olympiakos Piraeus, Marinakis, and the organizer of this gang, Beos, right after the critical derby match between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, which was decisive for the outcome of the championship and ended 2-1 for Olympiakos, with the referees doing their best to give the match to the reds (lhttp://www.greektube.org/content/view/139122/2/).

    Beos:COngratulations!
    Marinakis: We !@#!#@ them!
    B:Listen now...
    M:We were lucky
    B:Listen...it's over now...you have to protect them (the referees) for 7-10 days
    M:Yes yes...
    B:OK?
    M:Definitely
    B:It's your friend talking..

    Later the same day, Beos is talking with Kanelopoulos, former League leader and a "friend" also of Olympiakos...
    B:We should protect these referees...you can't hire someone to help you and then abandon him...noone will ever help you again...Got it...?
    And then they are commenting about the "mistakes" of the referees...both agreeing that they were decisive.


    Just for the record, Olympiakos has won 13 out of the last 15 championships...and according to UEFA standings, Olympiakos is the 2nd best Greek team in Europe for the last 20 years consecutively.

  • Comment number 76.

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