Fan violence in Greece during a Champions League qualifier has UEFA weary of putting a European final in the city. Currently, UEFA scheduled the Europa Conference League Final this season in Athens. However, that location could change as a result of the previous altercations between AEK Athens and Dinamo Zagreb fans.
Prior to their qualifying game, one fan died as Athens fans clashed with Zagreb ultras. Panathinaikos fans, a key rival of AEK Athens, joined Zagreb as they descended upon Athens supporters in the streets. Authorities arrested 88 people in connection with the violence. Most of those arrests were Croatian fans in attendance.
To make matters worse, video evidence showed that these clashes were premeditated. Fans were gathering in groups with weapons and flares before the altercation. It is the latest in a trend of fan violence that continues to leave a stain on the game.
Out of concern for the safety of fans, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin is meeting with Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. There, the UEFA President will discuss recent incidents of fan violence and what can be done to combat it. Therefore, the risk of moving the Conference League Final out of Greece is a possibility.
UEFA sees fan violence as major issue in Athens
UEFA already tried to combat some of this fan violence in Athens. Knowing there was a history between Croatian supporters and those in Greece, UEFA banned Zagreb fans from attending. However, these supporters still crossed borders to be in Athens to scrap the AEK supporters.
There are Croatian clubs and Greek clubs competing in the Europa Conference League. Therefore, there is a chance this fan violence could happen again. UEFA will likely not ban supporters for a neutral venue game like a Final. Therefore, moving the game may be the result.
UEFA moved the 2020, 2021 and 2022 UEFA Champions League Finals from their original locations. Neither of those was due to fan violence, though. The 2020 and 2021 finals moved from Istanbul to Portugal because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, in 2022. UEFA moved the Final from St. Petersburg to Paris because Russia invaded Ukraine.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ANE Edition
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