ATHENS – Topflight soccer clubs Volos and Kavala were relegated on Thursday and their chairmen banned for life after a match-fixing scandal that has prompted Greece to seek emergency assistance from UEFA.
The two clubs were also fined $433,400 each by league organizers.
Both clubs called the decision invalid, and vowed to fight to remain in the 16-team Superleague. They argued that top club officials, charged with match-fixing and money laundering, have not yet gone to trial.
Greece's Socialist government, battling a major financial crisis, has promised to take on corruption in professional soccer, and hasn't ruled out delaying the start of the new season, scheduled for Aug. 27.
Turkey has postponed the start of its season until Sept. 9 because of a match-fixing investigation that has landed 30 suspects in jail, including the president of league champion Fenerbahce.
Pavlos Geroulanos, Greece's minister for culture and sport, said on Wednesday that past championships had been tampered with, but he didn't elaborate.
''This is not the kind of sport that we want to see in Greece,'' Geroulanos told private Skai television.
''People who are repeatedly involved in acts of violence at the football ground, must know that they will go to jail. They should not be allowed into stadiums in the first place. Supporters' clubs should be a source of strength for football teams, not a source of corruption.''
On Tuesday, UEFA President Michel Platini promised to send teams of experts to Athens this summer to help Greece reform its soccer leagues and deal with a surge in fan violence at games.
More than 60 Greek club officials, players, businessmen and others are under investigation in a corruption probe. Ten people - including the charimen of Volos and Kavala - are in custody.
The Greek investigation was launched after UEFA gave authorities a report citing irregular betting patterns, mostly involving Greek Cup and second division games in 2009 and 2010.
Last month, the Greek Football Association suspended operations for two weeks to press the government and professional clubs to take an active role in cleaning up the sport.
Volos finished in fifth place last season, and on Thursday plays Luxembourg club Differdange in a qualifying round of the Europa League. Kavala finished seventh.
Thursday's decision is likely to provide a reprieve for relegated clubs Larissa and Panserraikos.