Greece Suspends Pro Sports After Fan Killed in Riot

The Greek government suspended play in all professional team sports for two weeks Friday after a fan was killed in a riot before a women's volleyball match.

The ban, which covers soccer, basketball, volleyball and other sports, will last until April 13.

A man was killed and seven others were hospitalized Thursday when fans from rival women's volleyball clubs Panathinaikos Athens and Olympiakos Piraeus fought near Athens.

"Violence in sport is something that affects our entire society ... and cannot be tolerated," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said Friday after an emergency cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

Roussopoulos also promised to tighten prison-sentencing laws for violent fans, and introduce mandatory surveillance cameras at all main soccer stadiums by 2008.

"These crimes are not anonymous. Specific people are responsible," Roussopoulos said.

The suspension effectively will delay team games for a week, as it coincides with a planned recess for the April 8 Orthodox Easter holiday.

The suspension follows a similar move in Italy following the Feb. 2 killing of a policeman in rioting at a match between Sicilian rivals Catania and Palermo. The violence led to a weeklong suspension of all soccer in Italy's top three divisions and to the closure of stadiums

Greek sporting events have been plagued by fan violence for years.

The national soccer team is likely to face sanctions from UEFA following Greece's 4-1 home loss to Turkey on Saturday in a European Championship qualifier. Greek fans clashed among themselves and also pelted Turkish players with sticks, coins and plastic water bottles.

In Thursday's clashes, several dozen fans on motorcycles clashed with rival supporters, hurling petrol bombs and rocks. At least two cars and three stores were damaged, police said.

Eighteen youths were detained by police, 13 of whom were formally arrested.

Police said a 25-year-old man died before reaching the hospital. A state coroner said the man died of head injuries and had been murdered.

The clashes occurred before a volleyball Greek Cup match between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos.

Both clubs have major teams in soccer, basketball and other sports, and rival supporters in the past have clashed at various sporting events.

Following the violence, police raided 15 supporters' clubs of Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, seizing dozens of makeshift weapons including pick axes, iron bars and baseball bats.

Greece plays its next Euro 2008 soccer qualifier on June 2 against Hungary.