Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Business | By Tara Barton

PAOK president apologizes for pistol-packing pitch invasion

PAOK president apologizes for pistol-packing pitch invasion

Federation Internationale de Football Association director for Europe Bjorn Vassallo said a delegation would travel to Athens later Tuesday to discuss the latest crisis, which began Sunday when the president of Greek club PAOK, Ivan Savvidis, stormed the pitch with a holstered gun strapped to his waist.

Savvidis marched onto the pitch accompanied by bodyguards in protest and had to be restrained as he vented his fury, with images seeming to show there was a firearm attached to a holster on his hip.

Savvidis invaded the pitch along with members of his security detail after PAOK's Fernando Varela had what he thought was an 89th-minute victor rule out for offside.

Greece's Superleague has been suspended indefinitely and the country threatened with a ban from world football as the government scrambled to contain the fallout from the extraordinary scenes on Sunday when the gun-toting oligarch owner of Paok Salonika stormed on to the pitch in a fit of fury to challenge a goal.

He said: "I wish to apologise to all PAOK supporters, Greek fans and the global football community".

"I am very sorry over what happened. Clearly I did not have the right to go out on the pitch in this way", Savvidis said.

Greek football has been plagued by claims of match-fixing, referee intimidation, pitch invasions and violence on and off the pitch, and authorities have repeatedly promised to reform the game.

Savvidis added: "All that could lead to uncontrollable situations".

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Instead, the 58-year-old Savvidis said his intention had been "to protect tens of thousands of PAOK fans from provocation, clashes, human victims". "And I obviously did not threaten anybody".

"Unfortunately, my family and I, as well as my colleagues, have been taken hostage by a totally sick football status-quo".

"Despite attacks at all levels, I will continue to fight for fair soccer and honorable refereeing in all matches, so that games are won on the pitch and not in courtrooms", he said.

"I want to apologise to all the fans of PAOK, all Greek fans, the global football community".

Savvidis was on the run for 24 hours after an arrest warrant was issued following Sunday's incident.

Savvidis' behavior also provoked PAOK's suspension Tuesday from the 230-member group of Europe's most influential clubs.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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