Heavy punishment for soccer club

Stunned by a remarkable 56-point reduction by ruling soccer authorities as punishment for fees owed to 18 players, the lowly first-division club Ioannina announced yesterday that it would appeal the decision at a civil court of first instance. Legal procedures have already been initiated, and a verdict on the appeal is expected to be released this Friday. Earlier in the day, EPAE, the Greek association of professional soccer clubs, had ratified the penalty, which was issued by the Greek soccer federation (EPO). Procedures were set in motion by 18 current and former Ioannina players, who took their case to EPAE. The penalty, which means certain relegation for Ioannina to the second division five rounds ahead of the season’s end, adds to the club’s woes. It has also been ordered to play two home games at a neutral ground for an outbreak of violence by fans following a recent game against Panathinaikos, the league’s front runner. Yesterday, EPAE’s disciplinary board issued orders for Ioannina, based in northwestern Greece, to stage its next home game, against Kallithea, in Pyrgos, in the Peloponnese. Local pundits yesterday played down the news of Ioannina’s heavy point-reduction penalty, claiming that the final punishment could be lighter. It remains unclear whether players of other cash-strapped clubs will take similar action against their administrations. The budgets of numerous Greek soccer clubs have been in financial straits following the collapse of pay-TV station Alpha Digital, last September, which had running broadcasting deals with many teams. EPAE yesterday also struck out at two second-division teams with point-reduction penalties that condemn both to the third division. Athinaikos and Panaigialeios were subject to deductions of 48 and 51 points respectively.