Long-running football corruption scandal’s a Greek tragedy
It may be shocking, but the latest allegation of threats to a Greek judge in charge of a case involving the HFF is nothing new, writes Laura Lawrence.
In a week where Boris Johnson felt the need to assure us that Great Britain is “not remotely a corrupt country”, the Greek Football Federation (Hellenic Football Federation, or HFF) metaphorically passed him their pint to hold.
The HFF has stumbled from one corruption allegation to the next for years. This week, a judge allocated to the latest case involving three HFF members, returned to his car to find a metal bar firmly lodged through his windscreen – just hours after being given the case. The mafioso act was vehemently condemned by the HFF and they denied all knowledge of it.
But how did things get to this point?
Since the late noughties, corruption allegations and attempted prosecutions have dominated football in Greece. In 2009/10, Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis was accused of using his ‘special relationship’ with the president of the HFF to secure ‘favourable’ referees. He was cleared of all match-fixing charges.
Marinakis went on to be embroiled in a six-year investigation and court case with two further members of the HFF, Theodoros Kouridis and Georgios Sarris. Described by the intelligence service as a criminal organisation, the conclusion by the prosecution was that blackmail and fraud were repeatedly used to gain an advantage. All the accused were acquitted of all charges.
The case was serious enough for Fifa to step in and take administrative control in 2016, relieving the HFF of its autonomy.
Throughout this period there have been further allegations of blackmail and tax evasion, and three ex-presidents of the HFF have been found guilty of economic crimes.
As swamps go it’s the deepest and murkiest of all. There was hope that a new era was dawning with the election of Theodoros Zagorakis, Euro 2004 winner with the Greek national team, as president of the HFF. After retiring, the Fifa World Player of the Year nominee became an MEP in the European Parliament. With endorsements from numerous members of the 2004-winning team, there was hope that a fresh start could be possible.
But Zagorakis resigned within six months.
Former team-mate Angelos Charisteas told Football365 that Zagorakis left his role because “He didn’t [get to] make any free choices”. The dark shadow lingers over the administration of Greek football.
And so, to the latest allegations. Three further HFF members are accused of breaking statues statutes and waiving licensing regulations for 10 clubs in Super League 2, the Championship of Greek football. All three have been found guilty and removed from their posts, but are awaiting punishment and further judgements from the ethics committee.
That judgement ended with a metal bar through a windscreen. The affected judge allegedly removed himself from proceedings, the act of vandalism having the desired effect.
The Greek government, in collaboration with Uefa and Fifa, are looking to step in to guide the HFF, the hope being that the governing body will become more transparent. These organisations are well known for their stance on corruption, of course. Not remotely corrupt…
Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR
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