Greek football matches will be played behind closed doors until February 12, the government announced on Monday, in an attempt to clamp down on violence at sports events.

The decision came after a police officer was severely injured last week when rival fans clashed during a volleyball game in Athens, the latest in a series of incidents in the country.

Government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis said the measure could also extend “on a case-by-case basis to European matches involving Greek teams”.

This week’s Europa League match between Olympiakos and Serbian club Backa Topola will be played without spectators, he added.

“For a number of years, criminals posing as fans have committed serious crimes, seriously injuring and killing people,” said Marinakis.

Police officers in several Greek cities gathered on Monday to denounce the lack of security at stadiums.

The Greek government last year increased the maximum sentence for fan violence from six months to five years.

“The problem didn’t start last week nor does it concern the supporters of one or two clubs… We need to find who is behind these criminal acts, who tolerates them and who encourages them,” the government spokesman said.

In order to combat the issues, Greek authorities plan to install high-definition cameras and electronic entry systems with verification of supporters’ identities at all stadiums.

The Greek league’s board of directors is set to meet on Tuesday.

According to local media, AEK Athens, Panathinaikos, PAOK and Aris Thessaloniki want to remove Evangelos Marinakis, the owner of Olympiakos, as president of the Super League.

Volleyball riots 

The government announcements came after a volleyball game between Athens rivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos was abandoned on Thursday as fighting between fans erupted outside the arena.

A 31-year-old police officer was hospitalised in a “critical” condition after reportedly being struck in the thigh by a flare.

Police took more than 400 people in for questioning, the majority of whom were released on Saturday.

An 18-year-old was arrested on Sunday accused of shooting the flare which seriously injured the police officer.

He will appear in court later this week and faces a charge of “attempted murder”.

Football in Greece has been plagued by fan violence in recent times.

The December 4 league game between Olympiakos and Volos was interrupted by disorder in the stands.

Top-level games were then postponed this past weekend after referees said they would not officiate in protest at what they called dangerous working conditions.

Last year a teenager was fatally stabbed in a fight in Thessaloniki between supporters of the northern Greek city’s rival clubs, Aris Thessaloniki and PAOK.

In July, seven defendants were found guilty of the teenager’s murder and handed life terms. Five others were jailed for complicity.

The following month a 29-year-old AEK Athens fan died after being stabbed during clashes between supporters of Dinamo Zagreb and his club on the eve of their Champions League qualifier in the Greek capital.

Some 40 Croatian fans were released from custody in Greece on Sunday and Monday, and are set to be deported.

Source: AFP