Clubs’ finances in disarray

The financial crisis in Greek soccer deepened yesterday as the government warned that several top clubs would lose their company licenses. The poor state of finances at 17 professional soccer clubs, as well as five basketball clubs, puts them in violation of company law, Deputy Development Minister Christos Theodorou told Parliament. Government auditors have been investigating the state of club finances since January, with a full report expected in April. Under Greek law, a private company’s operating license can be withdrawn if its current capital drops below one-10th of the value of its initial paid-up equity. Theodorou said yesterday that he has submitted a report of findings to Parliament. Investigations carried out so far indicate that 17 soccer clubs and five basketball clubs fail to meet the aforementioned company law criteria. First-division soccer clubs at risk, reports said, include UEFA Cup hopeful AEK, who play against Malaga tomorrow, and league champion Olympiakos. Also reported to be struggling are Akratitos, Aris, Ioannina, Aegaleo, PAOK and Proodeftiki, all from the first division, as well as nine clubs from the second and third divisions. Basketball’s five clubs apparently in the danger zone are Maroussi, Near East, Olympiakos, Panionios and Peristeri, all from the premier division of the national league. In his comments yesterday, Theodorou noted that troubled clubs had 20 days to shape up with company law requirements or face official state action. But no date has been given for the clubs to recapitalize or lose their license. At Olympiakos, neither the club’s soccer nor basketball divisions expressed alarm over the minister’s worrying news. In response, the club issued an announcement saying that required measures had recently been taken after the issue was raised at shareholder meetings. The club’s statement contended that current capital increases of 9,120,000 and 3,975,000 euros had recently been injected into the soccer and basketball divisions, respectively. These infusions of capital, the statement added, brought both divisions in line with Greek company law. The statement also provided dates for these capital injections, these being January 30 and February 3 for the soccer and basketball divisions respectively. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos warned that some teams would have to close under the new financial requirements when he announced the auditors’ investigation. «Some professional clubs are not going to be able to survive,» he said. Greek soccer has been close to bankruptcy since the September 2002 collapse of Alpha Digital that left the majority of teams with no television income. (Kathimerini/Reuters)