by Tony Attwood
On June 30 2015, Uefa’s then General secretary Gianni Infantino now head of Fifa announced that Olympiakos would be allowed to stay in the Champions League. As we know they went on to play Arsenal.
Immediately questions were raised. Uefa was asked whether Infantino had removed his deputy, Theodore Theodoridis, from any discussions or decisions about the handling of the Olympiakos case, which he was expected to do because Theodoridis’s father, Savvas, was vice-president of Olympiakos.
What was Infantino thinking?
Of course we don’t know but we do know that Infantino then said, “The Uefa disciplinary bodies have provisionally admitted Olympiakos. There are investigations in Greece the situation could change….as we all know, this kind of investigation can take some time, we need to have some clear evidence.”
“I think our bodies have shown they are very firm when it comes to match-fixing; if there is any evidence, they will take this into account. There is a clear rule as well which automatically excludes a club involved in match-fixing.”
We know also that Panathinaikos and PAOK Salonika who came second and third in the league, prepared complaints to Uefa about Olympiakos’ participation in Europe as a representative of Greece. But as we know they were allowed in, and played Arsenal.
However the secretive Court of Arbitration for Sport then rejected Panathinaikos’ appeal against Uefa’s decision to allow Olympiakos to play in Europe in June last year. The following day the Greek Magistrature took up the case against Olympiakos president Marinakis of five felonies regarding match fixing ordering the owner to hand in £140,000 bail, appear at a police station twice a month and banned him from football pending the outcome of the case.
Now all this is interesting because it represented a change of approach by Infantino because when Fenerbahce faced match-fixing charges, as reported at the time on Untold, Uefa wrote to the Turkish Federation to warn them about Fenerbahce before club officials were convicted and told the Turkish Federation to remove the club from their Champions League list.
But Uefa, with Infantino taking a close interest in the affair, and with Infantino’s deputy closely allied to Olympiakos, didn’t act in the same way with Olympiakos. Instead they argued that Fenerbahce’s president had been charged by Turkish authorities but claim the Greek proceedings have not reached that point. Infantino then argued that the CAS ruling on Olympiakos confirmed Uefa’s decision. But with his mind on the issue of become Fifa boss he made a mistake, because he claimed that before the CAS (supposedly totally independent of Fifa) actually issued their ruling.
CAS eventually confirmed that lawyers acting for Uefa had argued in the CAS hearing that CAS should throw out the case against Olympiako because Panathinaikos did not have the right to bring a case even though, if Olympiakos were guilty of match fixing, that should have meant their being thrown out of Europe and Panathinaikos put in their place.
It is an interesting new argument because if one club cannot report another for match fixing then it seems very unlikely any match fixing case will ever reach Uefa or the Court of Arbitration in Sport.
So the suggestion has been made that Uefa worked to keep Olympiakos in Europe by stopping CAS from properly looking at the Olympiakos case at a time when the vice president of Olympiakos had close links to Infantino’s team at Uefa.
Undoubtedly Infantino must have thought he had got away with his “blind eye” approach to the case, but the problem of Greek football still won’t go away. The country’s deputy sports minister has cancelled this season’s domestic cup because of crowd violence and has refused to back down despite Fifa (now under Infantino) pressure. This all arose after the first leg of the semi-final between PAOK and Olympiakos on 2 March was abandoned amid crowd chaos.
Fifa, now under Infantino has sent a letter to the Greek FA demanding they reinstate the Greek Cup by 1 April noting that a failure to do so would result in sanctions including the suspension of the Greek federation, the removal of all Greek clubs from playing in European club competitions and the debarring of the Greek national team from the world cup. Infantino is flexing his muscles – and by pure chance the relatives of his duty when at Uefa could be the beneficiaries.
But the deputy sports minister Stavros Kontonis in Greece has said that the government will not change its mind. He spoke of “exhaustive efforts in trying to protect basic social rights such as public order and social peace,” and added, “We declare yet again that the Greek government fully respects the self-governing function of sports federations and is not intervening in the administration, nor on issues related to sports.”
Kontonis also made the point that the Hellenic Football Federation (itself desperate to find a way to stop Olympiakos apparent ability to get away with anything in Greek football) had not used its recognised right to object although it has now appealed to the Council of State. But Kontonis has declared that the situation will only change if the country’s highest court decided to reverse the decision taken earlier this month.
Kontonis rejected Fifa’s suggestion that his decision was “disproportionate” and that the state could have used less severe measures, such as playing matches behind closed doors or a temporary suspension saying that the Greek top flight had been suspended three times last season, and that problems had persisted.
He added that the “cancellation of the Greek Cup is another preventive measure designed to protect public safety, which although particularly serious, is not a punitive measure, and the law actually provides the further step of suspending or cancelling the championship, if it is necessary. We would like to stress that the government will fully respect the decision which will be made by the supreme court of the country.”
With Infantino now paying back the favours that allowed him to become the top dog in Fifa, it will be interesting to see whether Fifa backs Olympiakos, where Infantino’s friends rule, or attempts to clean up Greek football.
Certainly he is not going to back down from the claim that Fifa has Super-State status, and that Fifa rules and only Fifa rules apply in relation to football. Part of this insidious claim means that states are hampered in taking action against corruption and violence in football – thus allowing Fifa to control not only football but any “investigation” (I use the word lightly) into crime and corruption in football.
Anniversaries – full list of today’s anniversaries plus the regular insult of the day are on the home page
24 March 1994: George Graham sold Anders Limpar to Everton for £1.6m. Limpar was subsequently very critical of Graham’s style of forcing players out by arranging transfers without telling the player that the offer was there until the last minute and then telling the player he had no choice.
24 March 2012: Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 0. 7th consecutive win during which Arsenal scored 21 goals. Gibbs, Walcott and Arteta scored. Villa won the yellow card race 4-0.
- Arsenal Ladies Season Opener – v Reading – Match Preview Boreham Wood FC – Meadow Park. KO 19:45
- Mourinho to Arsenal and he’s bringing Cesc, Gibbs on way out, Ozil going nowhere, Iwobi hospitalised.
- The limit beyond which I cannot go in offering Arsenal my support.
Danny Karbassiyoon’s book “The Arsenal Yankee” with a foreword by Arsene Wenger will be published on Tuesday 29 March. You can buy the book…
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The book is also available on Kindle.