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Greece suspends all football after arson attack on referee

The Greek Football Federation has suspended all domestic league and cup competitions after assault on committee chief Giorgos Bikas' house.

Greece suspends all football after arson attack on referee
TURAR KAZANGAPOV EFE

Greece suspended all national league and cup competitions on Wednesday after an alleged arson attack at the home of Giorgos Bikas, the head of its refereeing committee, the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) said in a statement.

The decision was announced by the EPO's temporary administrative board following a fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning in the Halkidiki area of northern Greece.

Neither Bikas nor any of his family were at the property, which suffered major damage.

"Following an extraordinary meeting, the EPO announces its decision for the suspension of all national football championships until the conclusion of the investigation into the causes of the fire by the fire services..." the EPO said. "The EPO expresses its full compassion to Mr Giorgos Bikas, whom we will support in every way possible."

Bikas' wife had left the couple's holiday house hours before the fire to visit their son in the nearby city of Salonika.

The latest development comes a week after another member of the refereeing committee (KED), Giorgos Tsachilidis, was threatened by two men on his doorstep - an incident which led to the resignation of all three KED members.

The start of the season had already been postponed for two weeks in September by the government due to a long-running dispute over the selection of referees between Greece's top clubs, the EPO and the government.

"Shocking organised crime"

Greece's top clubs have rallied behind the KED, condemning the violence and calling on the government to bring those responsible for the suspected arson attack to justice.

"Olympiacos suffers more damage than most from this latest criminal and disgraceful act," the Greek champions said in a statement.

"There must be no surrender to this mafia - only a strong and united front against these criminals from all of us,' PAOK Salonika said in a similarly strong-worded statement.

"It is shocking organised crime in football not only remains in place, but is now putting human lives at risk," PAOK added.

Panathinaikos chief executive Christos Panagopoulos has demanded that the Super League be suspended until the conclusion of the current investigation into an organised criminal group controlling Greek football.

"We simply cannot sit and watch houses of people being burned to the ground and talk about football. Even if the courts decide in 2020 [on the probe into the criminal group], let's wait and start the championship again then," he told reporters.

Wednesday’s suspension of all national soccer competitions in Greece does not affect the national team's World Cup qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Athens on November 13 nor matches involving Greek teams in the Europa League.