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Greek soccer officials to stand trial for match-fixing

FBL-GRE-FRA-ABIDAL

French footballer Eric Abidal (L) shakes hands with Olympikos president, Vangelis Marinakis during a press conference at Olympiakos’ Karaiskaki Stadium in Piraeus near Athens on December 19, 2014. Former France international defender Eric Abidal announced his retirement on December 19 for “strictly personal reasons”. But the 35-year-old former Barcelona star, who returned to playing football after undergoing a liver transplant, told an emotional press conference: “I am open to proposals.”. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

ATHENS, Greece (AP) The chairman of Greek soccer club Olympiakos and 27 other businessmen and former sporting officials will stand trial on match-fixing charges, a panel of judges ruled Wednesday.

The judges ordered Olympiakos chairman Vangelis Marinakis to stand trial. No date was set, and the conditions for his bail were extended. Marinakis, a prominent Greek shipowner and news media investor, denied the allegations, while criminal charges against him for fraud and blackmail were dropped.

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“My innocence will be established in the court proceedings that are to follow,” Marinakis said in a statement.

Marinakis said he would step aside as chairman until he is cleared in court, and named deputy chairman Yiannis Moralis as caretaker.

The other defendants - all charged with similar offenses - include shareholders and former and current officials in several Greek clubs as well as former referees and Greek soccer association officials.

Professional soccer in Greece has long been marred by fan violence and allegations of corruption, with rival club officials frequently having public spats and openly questioning refereeing decisions considered key to match outcomes.

The country’s current left-wing government has suspended league matches several times because of violence and attacks against match officials.

Greek champion Olympiakos is currently playing the group stage of the Champions League and last week held Barcelona to a 0-0 draw in Piraeus.

Marinakis took over the Piraeus club in 2010 and also owns a controlling stake in English Championship club Nottingham Forest.

The Greek club is currently a surprise fourth in the standings following a string of poor results.

The investigation focused on matches from 2012-15, court officials said. Criminal charges of match-fixing - formally called “unlawful influence of sporting event results” - carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The other clubs implicated include current and former officials and investors from Atromitos, Levadiakos and Veroia.

The trial is expected to take place in mid-2018.