Gun-toting owner remonstrates with ref; and football law changes

Errol Sweeney (Supplied)
Errol Sweeney (Supplied)

Johannesburg - Amost bizarre and potentially dangerous incident occurred in the Greek Superleague last weekend, when the owner of PAOK Salonika came on to the pitch to remonstrate with the referee.

Georgian-born Ivan Savvidis was unhappy with the referee’s decision to award a goal to PAOK and then disallow it. Reports on state TV say the referee awarded the goal approximately two hours later in the dressing room, which is very strange, to say the least.

As a result, all Greek Superleague games have been suspended.

Savvidis was accompanied on to the pitch by bodyguards. Television pictures show what appeared to be a firearm on his right side. He didn’t take the firearm out of its holster, however, the intimidatory display of aggression left no one, least of all the referee, in any doubt about what could have happened.

Greek Deputy Culture and Sport Minister Georgios Vassiliadis last Monday said that “such extreme phenomena call for bold decisions”. He did not elaborate.

“We will not allow anybody to deter us from this path, even if tough decisions are required in consultation with UEFA,” he was quoted as saying.

Greek soccer fixtures are frequently marred by violence. A derby between PAOK and Olympiakos Piraeus was called off last month after Olympiakos coach Oscar Garcia was hit by a roll of paper thrown from the stands.

Those who thought refereeing was safe should take note - this is a typical example of how dangerous it can be, even at the highest level.

Referees and their assistants at provincial and local level are regularly at risk of intimidation and even assault. The PAOK incident is a new one - generally, security is much tighter and the match officials enjoy a higher level of protection.

I was personally threatened by one club owner in South Africa when I was warned to “watch your back. I’m telling you, watch your back.” That can be scary, believe me.

Although I am strong psychologically and it didn’t affect me; I was worried for my wife and children, and I also had 100% trust in the Premier Soccer League’s security.

Changes to the Laws of the Game

This week, I’m going to deal with Law 12, fouls and misconduct.

As far as handball is concerned, the law says that, when considering to award a handball, “it’s the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)” that counts.

Heretofore, a player who was guilty of using “offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures or other verbal offences” was penalised by a direct free kick, but that has now been changed to an indirect free kick.

“A player, sent off player, substitute or substituted player who enters the field of play without the required referee’s permission and interferes with play or an opponent and denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, is guilty of a sending-off offence.

“If the ball is out of play, play is restarted according to the previous decision. If the ball is in play and a player commits an offence inside the field of play against:

- An opponent - indirect or direct free kick or penalty kick;

- A team-mate, substitute, substituted or sent-off player, team official or a match official - a direct free kick or penalty kick; and

- Any other person - a dropped ball.”

There are some more important points regarding Law 12 to be covered that I won’t have space for this week, but I will cover them next week.

Happy whistling!

Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol

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