NEWS

Soccer bubble bursts as TV channel sinks

The collapse of Alpha Digital yesterday, one of Greece’s two providers of pay-television services, has brought home the woes caused to soccer by the television rights bubble that has affected Germany, Britain and other countries with the collapse of television channels. In Greece, however, as in so many past instances, the State is being called on to rescue the struggling clubs. Alpha Digital’s «suspension of activities» has resulted in 10 of the 16 clubs in the top division without television coverage of their games. It is not clear how many subscribers will find themselves with useless cable decoder boxes.The soccer clubs are calling on the government to provide economic assistance, either by transfering Alpha Digital’s contracts with the clubs to state broadcaster ERT, or by allowing Greek soccer games to be included on the «Stoichima» betting system. The clubs have threatened to suspend the league unless they are given assistance. The government, which has been accused of being leery of providing assistance to people whose property was damaged by recent floodwaters, cannot easily commit itself to helping soccer clubs. As Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos put it, «the State cannot support adventurers.» The affected teams are Panathinaikos, Olympiakos, AEK, PAOK, Panachaiki, Aris, Proodeftiki, Xanthi, Panionios and Ioannina. As Alpha Digital’s woes had been known for month’s before yesterday’s announcement, they had cut their budget for new players at the beginning of this season. The only other pay-television platform, Netmed, holds contracts with the other six teams: Aegaleo, Akratitos, Ionikos, Iraklis, Kallithea and OFI. Netmed is in court with AEK, which it owned in the past, after the Athenian team broke its contract with Netmed for a more lucrative one with Alpha Digital. The clubs that had signed with Alpha Digital will now have to negotiate new contracts with Netmed. The clubs effort to be included on the «Stoichima» system is complicated by the fact that Olympiakos owner Socrates Kokkalis also controls the company, Intralot, that manages «Stoichima» and provides the machinery for it.