PtG Article 10.08.2006

Greek politicians exempted football from new law after FIFA pressure

Greek Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos felt the heat this summer when FIFA excluded Greek football teams from international competitions. FIFA was unhappy with proposals for a new law which would open the Hellenic Football Federation to public scrutiny. In the end, football was exempted from the law leaving Orfanos to ask whether FIFA is above national lawmakers.

“The international sports federations, due to the great publicity and commercialism acquired by sport, are now in a position to shape legal relations and situations which are alien to the competitive part of the sport they are promoting”, Orfanos said at a meeting of EU sports ministers back in May.

Orfanos was keen to get the backing of his European colleagues in clarifying the legal relation between international sports federations and laws passed by member states and the EU – particularly in view of the ongoing dispute between FIFA and the Greek government.

Exclusion used as lever to exempt football federation from new law

Over the summer, it became clear that Orfanos was right when he said that organisations like FIFA are in a position to shape legal relations.

According to World Sports Law Report, FIFA has intervened in Greek lawmaking on sport on three separate occasions since 2001. In all instances, laws were proposed which would allow the state some influence in the administrative matters of football including elections in the Hellenic Football Federation.

World Sports Law Report explains that the proposals discussed this summer would mean that changes to the statutes, the composition, the structure, the operation and economic administration of committees of the Professional Football Association should be approved by the Secretary of Culture after legal scrutiny.

Such proposals are incompatible with FIFA Statutes which say that in order to participate in international football, national football federations must be independent from any influence from governments. And in spite of ongoing negotiations with the Greek government, FIFA decided to up the ante by suspending Greek football – a move that created headlines all over the world and an immense pressure on Greek politicians.

A few days later, the Greek Parliament passed the new sports law with a special provision for the Hellenic Football Federation which specify that all matters of operation and organisation of football are regulated autonomously by the HFF and therefore HFF is not subject to the new law. FIFA immediately readmitted Greek football teams to international stadiums and tournaments.

Greeks have lost faith in football authorities

So FIFA and HFF are happy. But does that mean that all is well in Greek football?

Reflecting on events, Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos described the new law as pioneering and aimed at improving governance and transparency in professional sports in general and football in particular so that the Greeks can regain their trust in Greek football.

That trust has hit an all-time low. According to a Greek webservice,, a survey released this week by the Pulse Research and Consulting Firm and conducted by the Athens University of Economics showed that only 8.5 per cent of 1,500 Greeks surveyed believe that Greek professional football is clean. 47 per cent surveyed said they did not trust football authorities in the country.