ECONOMY

Pro sports clubs warned

Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou warned 13 soccer clubs and four basketball clubs yesterday that their operating licenses will be withdrawn by the end of the year if they do not settle their debts. Among the 13 soccer clubs, seven are first-division ones: AEK, Aegaleo, Aris, Iraklis, OFI, PAOK and Proodeftiki. The four delinquent basketball clubs are all top-division ones: Ionikos Nea Philadelfia, Maroussi, Panathinaikos and Peristeri. All these clubs were found to have an inadequate capital base and numerous debts. The total of debts accumulated by first-division soccer teams is 274 million euros; top division basketball teams have 68 million euros in debts. Papathanassiou and Deputy Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos said the clubs that fail either to pay their debts or raise their capital would suffer the consequences, that is, they would be unable to compete in the professional leagues. Beyond these clubs, others have been warned, but are in a less desperate position. Some clubs have failed to submit financial statements altogether: They include 17 of the 20 third-division soccer clubs. Papathanassiou gave the clubs until the end of the year to put their finances in order. Some, however, face an earlier date: AEK is under pressure by world soccer federation FIFA to pay debts to former players by the end of the month.