NEWS: Greek League in Crisis? Olympiacos Stars Sent into Exile

April 16, 2018

- Grant Whittington

Whisper it quietly; but the Greek Superleague has become increasingly gripped by chaos over the course of the last few weeks.

Firstly, PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis stormed the field after his side had a last-minute goal disallowed against fierce local rival AEK Athens, gesticulating wildly and armed with a gun. This caused the temporary suspension of the Superleague, as the authorities strived to restore order to an increasingly unstable competition.

This has been followed at the beginning of April by an unprecedented outburst by Olympiacos President Evangelos Marinakis, who launched a tirade against his underperforming side and promised to exile them for the remainder of the season.

Who is Marinakis?

Furious at a serious of lacklustre displays that have left Olympiacos third in the Superleague, Marinakis has exiled his so-called “entitled performers” to the reserves and vowed to replace them with youngsters from the U-20 squad for the remaining three games of the season. He’s also fined them a total of £350,000 for their troubles, creating hysteria within the squad and on the sidelines.

While this drastic step has thrown the league into further chaos, those who know Marinakis (who also owns Nottingham Forest) will not be surprised. After all, the powerful Greek shipping magnate has courted controversy throughout his career, while he has recently been investigated after allegations of drug trafficking were made against him and his fleet of ships.

Back in 2015, Marinakis was also banned for all football activity after being bailed for £174,000 in response to five charges, including the establishment and direction of a criminal organisation, fraud, attempted extortion, bribery with the aim of fixing matches and instigating an explosion endangering human life.

The latter charge was at a bakery owned by a Superleague referee, who had apparently been told what the result of an upcoming match should be. While nobody was harmed, the referee had his business destroyed while Marinakis has since been frequently linked as the leader of a match-fixing ring known simply as ‘The System’.

What has the Fall-out Been from the Latest Controversy?

At the Bet Hut, we find it incredible that a man with this record is allowed to operate in a top-flight football league, but this may explain why the Superleague and Greek football as a whole remains in a state of disarray.

As for his latest controversy, it has already accounted for manager Oscar Garcia, who stood down the day after Marinakis’ extraordinary outburst. Garcia felt that his position was untenable, and was probably relieved to have removed himself from a powder-keg situation that could explode at any time.

A player exodus is also likely in the summer, with Marinakis a man of his word who is likely to gut the first-team squad during the summer. From the perspective of the Superleague, this is yet another incredible development in a crazy season, and one in which football has taken an unusual and ill-deserved back-seat.

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