The published reasoning behind a landmark ruling by the Hellenic Football Federation’s (EPO) court of arbitration regarding the case against Panagiotis Dimitriou, the acting president of the federation after the resignation of Th. Zagorakis, along with first vice-president Stergios Antoniou and EPO treasurer Clearchos Tzaferis, was recently released.
The ruling is damning against the three members of EPO’s executive committee for their decision (No. 22 of Sept. 14, 2021) to essentially abolish the licensing process for teams’ participation in the Super League 2, Greek pro football’s second division in rank.
That decision, according to the court ruling, was “tailor-made” for 10 specific clubs.
This scandalous decision by EPO’s executive committee would have resulted in 90,000 euros being written-off, again only for the specific clubs, a development that would have also completely derailed the holding of play in Super League 2.
According to the ruling handed down by the court of arbitration, EPO’s leadership took this illegality to an higher level, abrogating any concept of jurisdiction and conscientiously violating EPO’s own charter, the “constitution” and “rulebook” of every national federation.
Specifically, the ruling states that article 35g of EPO’s charter, which prohibits the modification of rules governing the holding of national championships when the latter have commenced, was violated.
Three supreme court justices comprising the court of arbitration unanimously ruled that the EPO decision contravened several provisions in its own charter, and is, therefore, invalid.
The unanimous ruling also cited an illegal attempt to revise regulations for holding league play, despite the fact that play had commenced, something also explicitly prohibited by the charter.
“…Therefore, with the taking of the said decision, article 35g of EPO’s charter was violated, and as such, it is invalid.”
The court of arbitration not only threw out the EPO decision as illegal, because it violated the licensing regulation, it went even further.
The three-justice tribunal ruled that EPO’s leadership, who “on paper”, at least, are tasked with managing the federation on a day-to-day basis (even if everyone closely following pro football in the country knows who controls the strings) violated the federation’s charter, in a manner, in fact, and to such as degree, that the very same charter foresees their termination of office.
Because this violation is so egregious that it harms the very integrity of football league play in the country – as it uses ‘tailor-made’ revisions in rules for only 10 of the 36 teams. It is so egregious that the gentlemen that voted for these revisions cannot remain in their seat.
The point in the ruling stating that a violation of article 35g of EPO’s charter was attempted should automatically and ex officio result in the loss of position for the three members who took the decision, as stipulated in the EPO charter.
The question then arises: why didn’t the court of arbitration declare the trio as deposed? The reason is that the tribunal’s scope of jurisdiction and provisions do not foresee such as an authority.
Nevertheless, in any normal football federation such a discussion would be unnecessary. EPO’s leadership and its board members, as attested by the ruling, should have already resigned in shame.
Yet corruption within this body exists at such an ingrained level that nary a shred of shame or sense of honor is discernible – even if the charter was violated, and even if Super League 2 play is now “up in the air”. Not only are the perpetrators of these violations not thinking of resigning, instead they are pulling out all the stops to remain firmly in their executive chairs.
With the published ruling now weighing over the federation, every decision now taken by these three gentlemen will from hereon in be considered as illegal and invalid, thus thrusting EPO into a cycle of inertia and lack of governance.
The current government’s volition to “clean up” Greek pro football is a given. This volition was expressed in February 2020 during a meeting between the Greek prime minister and UEFA president Alexander Čeferin, where beyond clear-cut government announcements on the matter, we also witnessed the signing of a MoC between the Greek government and UEFA.
This position was again expressed recently at the highest level during a meeting between the Greek premier and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
This same position has been expressed on a daily basis during contacts between Greek ministers and UEFA officials, meaning that developments will be accelerated. The reason is that beyond the coming legal repercussions, international federations managing and overseeing the sport cannot and will not allow this sordid situation to continue.
They must now activate their own statutory procedures, especially those foreseen in Article 8, paragraph 2 of FIFA’s charter, and proceed immediately towards implementation of necessary measures, including the appointment of a temporary board of directors for EPO, so that corruption and lack of leadership on the part of the Greek federation does not lead to other legal and third-party interventions, which will merely serve to further smear the sport’s image and threaten its future.
The legal route has already been initiated, given the ruling by the court of arbitration is absolute and leaves no margins of doubt or other interpretation.
The burning issue now is for FIFA and UEFA to take pre-emptive measures before Greek football fizzles out completely.