Turmoil in Greek football took a chilling new turn on Saturday when all three members of the Hellenic Football Federation’s new Referees Committee quit following threats towards one of their number by unidentified thugs.
The Committee, set up by the Normalisation Committee introduced by FIFA last month to take control of Greek football, only met for the first time on Thursday. Yet, according to an exclusive report in the independent Greek football website SDNA.gr, little more than 24 hours later the senior referee Ioannis Tsachilidis (photo) received a visit at his home from strangers who persistently rang his doorbell. When he emerged on his balcony to talk to them, the two men became intimidating, reportedly saying: “We will fuck you, you won’t escape – wherever you go we will find you.” Tsachilidis contacted his colleagues on the CRC – committee chairman Georgios Bikas and Dimitris Kalyvas – late on Friday, informing them of his intention to resign over the intimidation. Upon receiving the news, the pair agreed they would also step down. Tsachilidis has lodged a formal complaint with the Greek police, whose specialist sports-violence unit has been requested to offer protection to the three men in anticipation of further attacks. The explosive development creates an administrative headache for FIFA, whose appointed Normalisation Committee reacted by issuing a statement on Saturday warning that if there is a repeat of the incident it would not hesitate to put a stop to domestic Greek football competitions. If it does, Greek teams would risk being expelled from all international competitions. The statement read: “Last night’s complaint from a member of the Hellenic Football Federation’s Interim Governing Board [Normalisation Committee] and the President of the Central Referees Committee, Mr. Georgios Bikas for the unethical and intimidatory treatment of a CGC member, an act which has already dealt with the Greek police, is repulsive and is condemned in the most categorical terms. “This targeted attack eventually resulted in the submission of resignation of all the members of CGC. UEFA, FIFA and its representative in Greece Mr. Kostakis Koutsoskoumnis have already been informed of the development. “The Normalisation Committee has been appointed by FIFA to normalise the operation of Greek football and the processes of its administration. We warn that if there are attempts in future from any side, the operation of all national football tournaments will be suspended for as long as necessary, even if this entails subsequent disqualification of our teams from international competitions.” The incident came less than 48 hours before one of the most incendiary matches of the Greek Super League season, when the top-two-placed teams, Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, faced off on Sunday night. That fixture has previously been abandoned over fan violence – an incident that prompted a moratorium on Super League fixtures last season – due to fan perceptions of questionable refereeing decisions.
It is not the first time a Greek Super League referee has suffered violent intimidation. In 2012, the then-FIFA referee Petros Konstantineas was allegedly asked to favour one team in a match he was due to officiate in. He refused; a month later the bakery he owns was blown up by a bomb, prompting his retirement. That incident forms part of two separate criminal investigations into match fixing in Greek football which are currently before the Athens criminal courts.