Lower league players begin strike

Matches in Greece’s cash-strapped second- and third-tier leagues have been suspended after the players’ union (PSAP) went on strike on Monday.

Football League 1 and 2 clubs have no money to pay insurance contributions for their players as they are waiting for funds from a sponsorship deal with state-run betting company OPAP.

The agreement, which was supposed to be completed in May 2011, has not yet been signed by OPAP.

The Football League had said last Friday it would suspend matches from February 13 but PSAP has declared a strike from this week meaning the 15th round of matches, due to take place on Wednesday, will not go ahead.

“We just finished our meeting and nobody is prepared to back down to find a solution,» PSAP president Stelios Giannakopoulos, a former Bolton Wanderers and Greece midfielder, told reporters.

“Only when a definitive solution is found will the players continue to play. All the clubs have been informed in writing.”

Giannakopoulos added that following a meeting with the general secretary for sport, Panayiotis Bitsaxis, he had been told the contract would be signed «within the next 15 days».

OPAP, which has not commented on the matter, froze sponsorship payments at the end of last season because of the repeated crowd violence which marred Greek soccer. The move has heavily affected the income of clubs outside the top flight.

“We understand that the country is living an unprecedented crisis, however this does not mean that among other things we have to tolerate playing uninsured or partially insured only for the duration of games,» PSAP said in a statement.


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