Greek soccer’s ‘Grexit’ risk eased after talks with UEFA

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece is unlikely to be suspended from international competition after its government pledged to make key changes to a new sports law aimed at fighting violence and match-fixing, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said Wednesday.

Infantino met with members of the parliament committee who are debating a soccer anti-violence law that UEFA says interferes with the independence of the sport’s administration.

The government’s deputy minister for sport, Stavros Kontonis, and the chairman of the Greek Football Association, Giorgos Girtzikis, were also present.

“I think that the outcome of the meeting was positive (but) we are not there yet,” Infantino said after the talks that lasted more than two hours. “We just have to fine-tune the different articles.”.

Greece’s top league has been suspended three times this season because of crowd violence and an attack on a senior referee, and a high-level judicial investigation is probing alleged corruption in the sport.

The draft law is to be voted on next week, but government officials said they had agreed to delay the debate for two days to allow for further consultations with UEFA.

The confrontation and possible suspension – dubbed in the local news media as a “football Grexit” – has added pressure on Greece’s new left-wing government, which is struggling to avoid bankruptcy in troubled negotiations with bailout lenders.

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“For us it is absolutely essential that the self-governance, the autonomy, of the federation is protected,” Infantino said. “This is a fundamental article for us and the consequence of this being violated would have been — and I use ‘would have been’ — the exclusion of Greek football. I think we will not get there.”.

Kontonis said the government would make amendments requested to the draft law but remained determined to crack down on violence.

The opposition conservatives had initially called for the bill to be withdrawn, but said they were also satisfied with the proposed changes.

Olympiakos has already won the Greek league title with 74 points after 32 matches, 12 clear of second-place Panathinaikos with two games remaining.