The Greek Parliament on Wednesday approved a last-minute amendment introduced by the government which spares Greece’s football champion PAOK and Xanthi FC from being relegated down from the Superleague.
The government’s amendment garnered 156 positive votes, while 90 MPs voted against it.
Several MPs abstained from the vote, including former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras from the New Democracy caucus.
The amendment came as a response to the proposition of the Professional Sports Committee that the PAOK and Xanthi football clubs will have to be relegated and expelled from the country’s top-football league due to legal violations.
The government is now under fire by both those who support the teams of PAOK and Xanthi as well as those who had originally wanted the two Northern Greek teams to be relegated.
The Olympiacos club, whose owners originally accused PAOK and Xanthi of irregularities, now see the government’s amendment as succumbing to PAOK’s threats that the country will be divided if their team is expelled from the Superleague.
On the other hand, according to the amendment, PAOK and Xanthi now face a penalty of 5-10 points on the scoreboard of the Superleague.
This is seen by many as basically a gift to the Olympiacos squad, since it will allow the team from Piraeus to occupy first place, currently held by PAOK, and be in a more advantageous position to become the football champion of Greece in 2020.
This matter, ostensibly having to do only with sports, has dominated Greek politics in the last three days and has had serious business and political implications.
The teams of PAOK and Olympiacos are owned by two of Greece’s most powerful businessmen, Ivan Savvides and Evangelos Marinakis respectively.
Their influence is very strong in the realm of Greek politics, since they both own media organizations in addition to their football clubs.
This has created a toxic atmosphere, with sports fans, politicians, newspapers and television networks all caught up now in what appears to be a nationwide tantrum; it remains to be seen just how and when it will subside.
The situation has also created a heated atmosphere among ordinary Greek citizens in the the North and the South, since football is largely segregated in the country between supporters of Thessaloniki-based football clubs and others who support clubs from Athens.