Pistol-packing Greek club president apologizes for invading pitch

PAOK president Ivan Savvidis has apologized for storming the field while armed with a gun during Sunday's match against AEK Athens, an incident that led to the Greek Superleague being suspended indefinitely by the country's government.

Pistol-packing Greek club president apologizes for invading pitch

Pistol-packing Greek club president apologizes for invading pitch

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

The Republic of Georgia-born tobacco and media tycoon was wearing a pistol in a holster on his hip, although he did not brandish it in the ensuing furor that saw AEK players leave the field before the match was abandoned at 0-0.

Greece's deputy minister of sport George Vassiliadis announced Monday that the country's top flight was "on an indefinite interruption," pending proposals from the Superleague and the Greek Football Federation.

In a statement on PAOK's official website, Savvidis offered a lengthy apology, albeit one peppered with references to what he believes to be a "totally ill soccer establishment" in his adopted country.

"I want to apologize to all the fans of PAOK, all Greek fans, the global football community. I am very sorry for what happened. Clearly I did not have the right to go out on the pitch in this way," Savvidis said. "My emotional reaction has been caused by the generalized negative situation prevailing in Greek football lately and by all the unacceptable, non-athletic events that took place towards the end of the PAOK-AEK - the actions of the referee and the supervisor (goal - offside - goal), the interruption of the match, the protests and the entry into the playing field of dozens of people of both teams."

Savvidis went on to claim his intention was to protect PAOK fans and made further allusions toward football in Greece being systematically unfair.

Despite Savvidis' apology, the European Club Association — the UEFA-recognized body representing the interests of professional clubs across the continent — has moved to suspend PAOK's membership because of his actions.

In a statement, the ECA said it "strongly condemns" Savvidis' behavior and added: "In light of this, and in accordance with the ECA Statutes, the ECA Executive Board unanimously decided to suspend, with immediate effect, PAOK FC as member of the European Club Association.

"ECA exists to protect the integrity and regularity of competitions and matches as well as the sporting values and principles on which European football is based."

The suspension will be reported to the ECA general assembly March 27 in Rome.

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