Soccer club chief questions the ability of other teams to survive

Panathinaikos soccer club’s president, Angelos Philippidis, yesterday hinted that several first-division teams were in serious danger of sinking financially. His alarming comments on the dire condition of Greek clubs emerged during an interview with the radio station SuperSport FM after the show’s host asked whether two of Panathinaikos’s star players, striker Nikos Lymberopoulos and midfielder Giorgos Karagounis, would extend their respective contracts with the club. Both players’ contracts are set to expire. «It’s too early to talk about such topics. We don’t even know if 10 teams will exist in the first division three to four months from now,» Philippidis noted on the 16-team competition, without elaborating on who the strugglers were. Though the blacklist is most likely dominated by the less renowned clubs, a local sports tabloid, Filathlos, ran a story yesterday claiming that Olympiakos, one of the country’s two biggest clubs, was currently burdened by huge debts and claimed that only a big capital increase would make the defending champion solvent again. The club is owned by one of Greece’s most powerful entrepreneurs, Socrates Kokkalis. Many Greek soccer clubs have struggled for funds since the financial demise of pay-TV station Alpha Digital last September. Given the steadfast refusal of the government to bow to their pressure to provide money via a television contract with state TV channel ERT and money from betting games, many clubs are now thinking of ditching their most expensive players if they cannot cajole them into accepting pay cuts. The latest victim of this policy is AEK midfielder Vassilis Tsartas, who had the temerity to demand some 1.25 million euros owed to him by the club. AEK strongman Makis Psomiadis has demanded that coach Dusan Bajevic cease using him in games. Yesterday, Tsartas, facing a summons from AEK’s board to account for his «unacceptable behavior,» went to the team’s offices only to be served with a paper informing him that his contract had been suspended for six months.

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