The President of Super League Giorgos Borovilos talked to the Al Jazeera network (a television network broadcasting to the countries of the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, as well as internationally through satellite, to an audience reaching 300 million viewers) and the channel's correspondent in Greece Ziad Shehade about violence in stadia, the financial crisis as well as the initiatives taken by Super League.
The full interview:
On the violence in stadia:
"We have taken many initiatives, but our football is not the way we want it.
The violence issue is indeed a pest for Greek football. Right now the phenomenon is on the increase as the Greek society in general is in turmoil with all the issues it faces.
However, football problems are also a cause. We, as Super League, obviously do not want violence in football. We want families to come to the stadium and our goal is to achieve this.
Our goal is also to upgrade the product with the participation of sponsors. We want to promote football because it's indeed the most beautiful and popular sport.
However, what everyone needs to understand is that the complex issue of violence cannot only be solved with suppressive measures and exorbitant fines to the clubs.
On the contrary, the collaboration between the Governmental and Football is required so as to form the necessary framework that will contribute to the limitation of violence incidents.
Despite the steep fines and home bans imposed to the Professional Clubs, based on the HFF Disciplinary Code, if the perpetrators, namely those causing the incidents, are not punished based on the laws, then the impunity will continue."
What initiatives has the League taken towards combatting violence?
"We have brought forward many suggestions to the competent bodies, we have imposed exceedingly high fines, we have banned stadia and we have one of the most rigid disciplinary regulations in Europe.
Perhaps the outwards appearance is that the League is not everything is its power to combat this phenomenon.
Nevertheless, we have organised international conferences, seminars and taken many actions. We have invited people who successfully dealt with this problem in advance countries in terms of football such as England, Germany and France.
We as the organising authority ask for two safety officers, with a safety officer in every club with the clubs being responsible for safety, with the assistance of the police.
We would also like for the safety inside the stadium to be under our jurisdiction, but this contravenes the law that does not permit as yet to stewards to detain those causing the incidents.
But we hope that this will change with the new sports law so that those all who harm the sport and its image and cause violence in the stadia may be detained and surrendered to the police and subsequently to justice for their due punishment."
On the financial crisis and its impact to the clubs:
"Let's not mince words. There is a major financial crisis that has befallen our society and this affects clubs and their budgets. The current championship is underway without a main sponsor. So there is an issue of quality for the footballers playing in the Greek championship.
On the other hand there are clubs such as Panionios that promote talented young Greek players even in the midst of this crisis without spending money that simply is not there. Of course there are other clubs that presented a good face following a policy of rationalising their finance.
Nonetheless, we still do not have the quality that we would wish for. The turn to the grassroots is one solution. Again, let's not mince words. The ratio between price and quality applies in all aspects of life and, therefore, in football too. The saying "you get what you pay for" is true. So indeed there is an issue of quality. And of course investment by clubs during the transfer period was low since the money for transfers is just not there. This is the truth. Also, in January one cannot find many and good players. Statistically speaking, there are very few instances of players acquired during the winter window that distinguished themselves on the pitch.
At any rate though, we should not be blaming our bad fortune. We will recover both in terms of the National Team and clubs. Greek clubs participate in European competitions and the Greek National Team did not qualify in the quarter finals of the World Cup over just one penalty. We are going through a crisis, but I am confident that with systematic efforts we will able to overcome.
We have a strategy as regards the sponsor and we are moving methodically. More money will eventually come and quality will improve. Our target is self-sufficiency."
What should change?
"In the new season, we will focus more on the support that the institutional framework can provide to football.
We will have new regulations and an updated disciplinary code.
According to the new regulations, a club will no longer be able to withdraw from the championship because it will be relegated to the last division and it will stay there for many years.
Even when it returns, it will be obliged to pay some of the money that it owed before its relegation. This is already working as a preventive measure for clubs that think they can select the division they will be playing in, in order to have their debts eliminated.
If we have better finance, we will have better players and better stadia too because some of the Super League stadia are old.
We want safety, good seating and good view, good stadia infrastructures for the fans. And of course to combat violence so that fans can feel safe and secure when in the stadium."
There is though intense grumbling about refereeing…
"We of course would like better refereeing. Best is the enemy of good.
People will always grumble about refereeing the world around. It is the role of the referee that one decision can determine the outcome of the match.
Many times, fans and clubs turn their eyes to them. We, as the League, are standing next to them.
We help the referees as, despite the crisis, we did not reduce their compensation and still continue to subsidise their seminars.
Greek referees have the place they deserve in Europe too. We also have a referee officiating in the Champions League and things will get better and this is what Super League Is striving for.
Wherever and whenever Super League is required to aid, we do so, because we must not forget that refereeing belongs to the Federation, the HFF.
And because I don't want you to think that I am trying to avoid answering your question: Greek refereeing is at a good level, but we would like it to improve."