Club wants aid for its ground

Following up on Wednesday’s announcement of a plan to build a bigger and better stadium at the current downtown stadium location, Panathinaikos soccer club’s president, Angelos Philippidis, said yesterday that the team expected the State to match the support it has already offered rival Olympiakos for the refurbishment of its home ground. Failure to do so would provide the rival club with a comparative business advantage, Philippidis contended. Olympiakos recently struck a deal with the State for a long-term lease of Karaiskaki Stadium in Neo Faliron, its home ground for decades. The Piraeus club has agreed to refurbish the depleted 40,000-capacity stadium in time for the Athens Olympics at a cost of approximately 30 million euros in exchange. To facilitate the deal, the government had to persuade Karaiskaki Stadium’s owner, the Hellenic Olympic Committee (EOE), to transfer its ownership to the State. In exchange, the government has pledged to provide an alternative venue as a replacement. «In the case of Olympiakos, the State made a brave decision – and rightly so. But we estimate that this brave decision will cost the State about 50 billion drachmas (146.6 million euros) in replacements costs for EOE,» Philippidis noted. «The expropriation costs for the space we’re seeking will cost between 15 billion (44 million euros) and 20 billion (58.7 million euros) drachmas, without us asking for an extra drachma, either directly or indirectly,» he added. Philippidis warned that Panathinaikos – which, along with Olympiakos, ranks as one of the country’s two most popular clubs – would strongly react if the State failed to lend its support for the club’s cause, which he contended would sway the business side’s competitive balance. «I don’t want to even think that the State will not comply. I find it inconceivable that the State should intervene in the competitive affairs of the two companies. With the use of its new ground, Olympiakos will enjoy a comparative advantage worth between 2 and 4 billion drachmas annually (5.9 million and 11.7 million euros) over Panathinaikos, which, according to a recent poll conducted by ALCO, has a 1.5 percent greater share of fans, nationwide, than Olympiakos,» Philippidis said. «I’m not going to get into the logic of quantitative comparison. We more or less have the same number of fans. But these are two competing firms, and if treatment isn’t fair, we will take all necessary legal action for justice. I don’t know what this will be because I don’t want to think that a positive outcome won’t occur. Besides, (Culture Minister) Mr (Evangelos) Venizelos has shown great interest and I believe he will provide a fair solution,» added the Panathinaikos president, who is considering entering politics with the main opposition New Democracy party. Panathinaikos plans to completely demolish its current Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium, which seats 15,000 fans, and replace it with a state-of-the-art arena able to hold 35,000 fans.