Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos on Saturday promised to pick up the tab for damages inflicted on Friday night to the Karolos Koun Art Theatre, which became the hapless target of an unprecedented attack by football hooligans on the first night of a play entitled 'Travelling with PAOK, Stories of Larissis Station'.

The reference to a northern Greek football team in the play's title was enough to attract the attention of some 25 rival team supporters, who descended on unwitting theatre goers in Athens' Plaka district armed with iron bars and petrol bombs, shouting Olympiakos football chants, and started to work mayhem.

The culprits, who arrived some 40 minutes before the play was due to begin, broke into the theatre and set fire to the stage and props, while one by-stander was robbed - possibly, according to police, because he was a PAOK supporter. Police were called in but arrived too late to stop the damage or even catch those responsible.

In a call to the theatre director early on Saturday, Geroulanos promised that the culture ministry will cover the cost of all damages to the theatre and stressed that there was no room for violence in culture. He also promised to come and see the play as soon as he returns from a trip to Israel.

"The theatre is not a football stadium," he underlined and promised that the state will make every effort to isolate incidents of violence of this kind.

The Saturday night performance, meanwhile, will be attended by the general secretary for sports Panos Bitsaksis.