Greek football investigated for alleged corruption

football panathinaikos

Supreme Court (Areios Paghos) deputy prosecutor Georgios Economou, who is responsible for the sports sector, on Friday ordered an investigation into possible corruption and illegal practices in Greek football.

The investigation was launched after the statements made by Panathinaikos F.C. President Yiannis Alafouzos in an interview with the BBC.

After learning of the Alafouzos' interview, Economou summoned Alafouzos to an informal meeting at his office.

Following this, the prosecutor - who has been investigating the problems in Greek football for some time - ordered that an investigation be carried out by a first-instance court public prosecutor responsible for sports issues, in which Alafouzos and other individuals may be summoned to testify.

The 66-year-old has not only set about trying to steer the Athens club away from bankruptcy and back to former glories, but also taken Greek football to task over corruption, match-fixing and fan violence.

Now, he fears a trickle-down effect the lavish-spending Saudi Pro League may have on smaller European nations, too, with more money entering the pockets of the continent's biggest clubs.

"It will damage European football further and isolate smaller counties even more from the mainstream," Alafouzos tells BBC Sport.

"European football [competition] is the only means of Greek clubs participating in the bigger income pool that Europe has."

Yet Greek participation among Europe's elite is becoming increasingly rare. Twenty years ago, three clubs reached the Champions League group stage, but this will be the third successive season with none.

The Greek top flight has slipped from sixth in Uefa's coefficient ranking in 2002 to 19th this term, and Alafouzos says the on and off-field problems stem from corruption that has crept into the game for the past 30 years.

"We lost sponsors, we lost income, because nobody was interested," explains Alafouzos.

"There was violence because corruption leads to violence - it increases violence. It is not the only reason why we have hooliganism, but when a portion of fans feel their games are stolen from them they become violent, and this has an even more negative impact. It is a vicious circle.

"Corruption has also resulted in a lot of Greek players going abroad. If they think games are skewed here, their future is very limited."

Tackling violence and corruption
There have been investigations into allegations of match-fixing and violent attacks on referees and match officials - one saw his bakery bombed, while in 2018 another was dragged from a car and beaten. His colleagues in the league went on strike.

Former Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic midfielder Olivier Kapo called Greek football "a total mafia" and claimed he was approached by match-fixers to get a red card during the 2013-14 season.

A 2015 report alleged key figures in the game were part of a criminal organisation involved with "fraud, attempted criminal extortion and corruption", but six years later 28 people were acquitted of all charges.

Uefa, European football's governing body, has tried to work with authorities to improve the situation and Alafouzos hopes things are on the up, in part thanks to the introduction of video assistant referees (VAR).

"The best means to fight corruption is through transparency," he explains. "[With] VAR and also the digital media, people can follow things more clearly and see more things.

"Now it is becoming progressively more difficult because everybody can see what is happening."

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