Football: AEK faces relegation after points deducted

One of Greece's top football clubs, AEK Athens, faces relegation after a Super League disciplinary committee decided early Friday to dock three points because of crowd violence at a match.

The committee decided on the penalties, which also include a 11,000-euro fine and the docking of two points next season, after 10 hours of deliberation.

Club officials said they would appeal the decision, with a ruling there expected next week.

If the decision is confirmed however, the club would drop out of the top division for the first time in its 89-year history.

Some 500 AEK supporters were kept at a two-block distance from the Super League offices by riot-trained police on Thursday when the committee met.

The supporters closed off one of the busy major roads leading from Athens to the northern suburbs for half an hour, near the Athens Olympic Stadium, not far from Super League headquarters.

They shouted slogans in favour of AEK and against Tritsonis, the Super League and arch-rival Olympiakos.

Team members testified for nearly two hours Thursday before the committee about the trouble at Sunday's penultimate game of the season.

Hundreds hundreds of AEK supporters clashed with police on and off the pitch at Athens' Olympic Stadium, leading to the match with second-bottom Panthrakikos to be called off.

Play was initially halted in the 87th minute, shortly after the visitors took a 1-0 lead via an own-goal and the pitch was invaded by angry home fans.

For more than an hour, club officials tried in vain to convince referee Stavros Tritsonis to restart the match as the stadium emptied of fans.

AEK coach Trainos Dellas and the club's legal representative Haris Grigoriou tried to convince the committee that the decision by Tritsonis to suspend the match permanently had wrong.

"We are not asking for favours from anyone, just equality," said Dellas. "The police and Panthrakikos gave their consent to continue the match.

"The referee was constantly on the phone and then he came to us and told us the match was suspended without giving a reason," said the former Greece international defender.

Dellas was only appointed coach last week after Ewald Lienen was fired.

The referee had reported that the match had been suspended because of damage to the ground. But Grigoriou argued that in those circumstances the rules did not provide for points to be deducted.

A memo delivered to the committee by rivals Panthrakikos supported the referee's decision, despite earlier indications that the Komotini team would support AEK.

"Hundreds of AEK fans invaded the pitch with planks, stones, iron bars and destroyed everything they found in front of them and they chased us," the referee, Tritsonis, wrote in his match report.

"Players, coaches and others who were on the pitch ran below to escape. They caught up with us and beat us and a player from Panthrakikos and a representative of the team were injured."

Tritsonis wrote that there had also been unsuccessful attempts by angry fans to enter the team changing rooms to attack players, coaches and officials.

"It was a battle scene and so I decided to suspend the match," he added.

Had the match been restarted and the scoreline remained the same until full-time, AEK could still have avoided relegation by winning at Atromitos next Sunday.

They were sitting 12th in the 16-team league going into the tie but with only a point separating them from 15th spot.

AEK, formed in 1924 by refugees from the former Constantinople, is one of the oldest clubs in Greece and has a long history of success.

But in recent years the finances of the team have been mismanaged and the club are 35 million euros ($46 million, £30 million) in debt.

AEK was forced to offload key personnel before the start of the season because it could not pay their wages.