Greece Sports Minister Georgios Vassiliadis said that Superleague play has been "suspended indefinitely, a day after the gun-toting owner of PAOK Thessaloniki" marched onto the field following a disputed goal at the end of a league match, according to Daniel Zeqiri of the London TELEGRAPH. A disallowed goal in the closing stages of the game between PAOK and AEK Athens "sparked anarchy on Sunday night," when PAOK Owner Ivan Savvidis "stormed the pitch while appearing to carry a holstered gun." Savvidis twice marched onto the field surrounded by bodyguards to "remonstrate with referee Giorgos Kominis" after Fernando Varela's 89th minute goal was "chalked off with the score 0-0." Vassiliadis, speaking after meeting Monday with Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, said that league play was suspended and would not restart "if there is not a new, clear framework agreed to by all so we can move forward with conditions and regulations." Savvidis "wore a holster on his waist containing what appeared to be a revolver, though he did not remove it during the ensuing fracas" (TELEGRAPH, 3/12). The AP reported Greek police said that they are investigating Savvidis, who holds a gun license, and four others for "illegal entry onto the field and for possession of an object that could cause harm in a sporting venue." PAOK released a statement after the game, insisting that Savvidis invaded the pitch to "protect the club" (AP, 3/12). REUTERS' Michele Kambas reported Greek football "has been plagued by pitch invasions and violence on and off the pitch." Authorities have "repeatedly promised to clean up the game." Vassiliadis said that the suspension was "indefinite until all involved agreed on a code of conduct and rules." He added, "On our part, much tighter rules on issues of security." PAOK "went on to be declared the winner after the referee reversed his decision two hours after the game and allowed the goal" (REUTERS, 3/12).
Guinea-Bissau Football Federation (FFGB) President Manuel Nascimento said that his country "will vote for Morocco" staging the 2026 World Cup, according to Andrew Jackson Oryada of the BBC. The North African country "must beat a triple bid" from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. for the right to stage the event. Nascimento: "I demand that our votes as Africa are solid and we should not scatter them around when voting time comes." Algeria Football Federation (FAF) President Kheireddine Zetchi also confirmed support for Morocco's bid, adding that the country "would provide help should Morocco ask for it" (BBC, 3/12).
2018 WORLD CUP TICKETS: TASS reported over 1.3 million tickets have been allocated to domestic and int'l football fans "after the closure of the first period of Phase 2 of ticket sales" for the 2018 World Cup, which kicks off in less than 100 days in Russia. Since the requests for tickets exceeded the available supply, they were allocated based on "a random selection draw for ticket allocation." FIFA said, "Most of them are going to Russian fans (197,832) followed by fans from Colombia (33,048), Brazil (24,656), Peru (21,946), Germany (21,639), USA (20,347), Mexico (18,155), Australia (15,906), Argentina (15,214), England (14,890) and Poland (13,686)" (TASS, 3/12).
CHINESE PRESENCE: FIFA launched its digital presence in China on Weibo. China has the world's largest internet user base and Weibo is the country's largest social media platform. Kicking off FIFA's digital arrival in China, the official @FIFA account was inaugurated and engaged fans through an interactive campaign entitled "Pass the Ball." In late March, FIFA will open its second account with Weibo, @FIFAWorldCup, which will focus on all news and updates related to the tournament (FIFA).
LOST APPEAL: The AP reported Former FIFA VP Jeffrey Webb lost his appeal against a 1M Swiss franc ($1.06M) fine imposed by the football body’s ethics committee. FIFA said that its appeals committee ruled the amount “was adequate.” Webb did not appeal his life ban (AP, 3/12).
LA LIGA ESPORTS: McDonald's Virtual La Liga eSports joined the EA Sports FIFA 18 Global Series on the Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup. La Liga is the latest division to pit its top FIFA players against each other for a spot at the FIFA eWorld Cup. Starting next Monday, players will have the chance to claim one of 16 places on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, before the 32 qualifiers head to Barcelona where they will compete on April 16 (FIFA).
The FA received 15 applications to join the revamped top two tiers of women's football for '18-19, "with nine vacancies available," according to Tom Garry of the BBC. Up to four teams could join the top division, the Women's Super League, and up to five may enter tier two, the new Women's Championship. Any club with an affiliated women's or girls' football team could have applied before the deadline on March 9. Clubs including West Ham "stated their desire to join the WSL," while Crystal Palace and Sheffield United were among the teams "to bid to join the Women's Championship." Sides "wishing to play in the top league will have to meet new professional criteria," including running a youth academy, while the Women's Championship will be a part-time division (BBC, 3/12).