FIFA sending delegation to discuss Greek soccer crisis

PAOK owner, businessman Ivan Savvidis, second from left, approaches AEK Athens' Manager Operation Department Vassilis Dimitriadis, center, as his bodyguard and PAOK's players Fernando Varela, second from right, and Djalma Campos, right, try to stop him during a Greek League soccer match between PAOK and AEK Athens in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, Sunday, March 11, 2018. A disputed goal at the end of the Greek league match led to a pitch invasion by Savvidis, who appeared to be carrying a gun. Savvidis came on the field twice. It's unclear this photos shows his first time or second. (InTime Sports via AP)

FIFA will send a delegation to Greece to discuss the country's soccer crisis, a day after its top league was suspended

THESSALONIKI, Greece — FIFA will send a delegation to Greece on Tuesday to discuss the country's soccer crisis, a day after its top league was suspended.

In a letter to the Greek government, FIFA Europe director Bjorn Vassallo said the delegation was due to arrive in Athens later Tuesday to hold talks that included meetings with the Greek soccer federation.

"FIFA demands an uncompromising and robust approach in exterminating all forms of violence in football," Vassallo wrote.

On Monday, the government ordered the suspension of the Greek league after the owner of PAOK Thessaloniki stormed onto the field with a gun holstered to his belt to protest a disallowed goal in a match against AEK Athens.

A public prosecutor ordered a judicial investigation into the incident. The probe by prosecutors in Thessaloniki will also investigate why police allegedly ignored instructions by a prosecutor to arrest PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis on the spot.

FIFA has already warned Greek sporting authorities that failure to implement swift reforms could lead to the country's suspension from international competition.

Savvidis' behavior also provoked PAOK's suspension Tuesday from the 230-member group of Europe's most influential clubs. The European Club Association said its board voted unanimously to suspend PAOK until a March 27 members' assembly in Rome.

Still evading arrest, Savvidis apologized Tuesday for what he called an "emotional reaction" to the referee's decision and "the general negative condition in Greek soccer."

In a statement on the club's website, he said his only intention had been "to protect tens of thousands of PAOK fans from provocations and clashes (with) victims."

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