NEWS

Soccer clubs get last chance to clean up financial acts

Ever since soccer, basketball and volleyball went professional, Greek soccer clubs have been getting rich on taxpayers’ money. Governments, not wanting to disappoint their spoiled children (i.e. the presidents of these clubs), have allowed the cancer to grow. They have not dared to downgrade these clubs to lesser categories, so, as a result, firms that should by all rights have closed down are allowed to continue while running up huge debts. «The government is faced with a dilemma. Either it must wipe the slate clean – soccer clubs, championships – or give the teams one last chance to pay their debts and clean up their act. We are not giving anything away,» Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Orfanos, who holds the sports portfolio, told Kathimerini in reply to a question as to why the law had not been enforced regarding soccer clubs’ debts. «The problem with the debts is twofold. On the one hand are those that have accumulated over the years. The other aspect is related to the clubs’ share capital, which applies to 66 professional soccer and basketball clubs that have no real basis for existence. That is their own capital is less than one tenth of their equity. According to the law, these should be closed down.» Why hasn’t the law been enforced? I have mentioned the dilemma. We have given them a brief grace period to find the money and get their legal affairs in order before the new championship season. (Prime Minister Costas) Karamanlis was very positive about this solution. And if they don’t comply? If some clubs pay one or two installments and then no more, what will you do? There will be consequences which could go as far as downgrading the teams. We are completing talks with presidents of the clubs and will continue with the political parties. We want the new law to be passed in time for the new season so that we will know where we all stand. What about violence? Will you go as far as they did in England, where they closed the borders to teams whose fans had created incidents? Responsibilities will be apportioned to individuals and to clubs which will have to assume their own responsibility for keeping order within the stadiums. I have already set out my views to the prime minister, including assigning the task of confronting violence in stadiums to private security forces. As for the second part of your question, yes, in extreme cases. It is one of the measures included in the new bill.