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Gun-wielding club owner forces league abandonment

The Greek top-flight league has been suspended after a key game ended in chaos on Sunday when the president of a club entered the pitch during the match with a handgun holstered on his waist.

PAOK President Ivan Savvidis escorted out after carrying a pistol onto the pitch

The incident occurred in a Greek Superleague match between rivals PAOK and AEK Athens, after the referee disallowed a last-minute goal by PAOK defender Fernando Varela.

With confusion surrounding whether the goal had been awarded or not, PAOK president Ivan Savvidis walked onto the pitch accompanied by bodyguards, wearing a handgun in a holster on his waist.

The match was subsequently abandoned as Savvidis was escorted from the field. “We have decided to suspend the Championship indefinitely,” Greece’s Deputy Culture and Sports Minister Georgios Vassiliadis told National Greek broadcaster ERT following a meeting with the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

“We are in communication with UEFA and the Championship will not resume unless there is a new and clear framework agreed by everyone so we can move forward with rules and regulations.

‘‘We are not going back, we continue the fight for transparency and a better football.”

Earlier Vassiliadis told CNN Sport that “scenes where armed officials enter the sport field send us many years backwards. Such extreme phenomena demand courageous decisions. “We will not allow to anyone to derive us from our target even if we need to take tough decisions in communication with the UEFA.”

World governing body FIFA told CNN in a statement that they were aware of the incident and “fully condemns such behavior,” though “as the incident occurred in domestic competition, all disciplinary action falls under the jurisdiction of the Greek Football Association.”

However, leading international sports lawyer Gregory Ioannidis questioned FIFA’s reticence to get involved.

“Given the sensitive nature of football governance in Greece with the recent match fixing scandals, UEFA and FIFA may assume not only jurisdiction, but also a supervisory role in terms of the proceedings at national level,” Ioannidis told CNN Sport.

“It is also worth noting that current laws and regulations in Greece do not even allow police officers to carry firearms when inside a sporting ground, let alone allowing civilians to do so.”

An arrest warrant has been reportedly issued for Savvidis, though as he has a license to carry a gun the warrant relates to the pitch invasion. – CNN.