Greek sport faces ruin due to the country’s ongoing financial crisis, the Hellenic Olympic Committee said on Thursday, warning that a proposed 80 percent cut in state funding would be a hammer blow if approved.
The state budget debated in parliament this week recommended further massive cuts in government subsidies to sports federations that come under the HOC’s umbrella, as the crisis-hit country tries to avoid defaulting on debt repayments.
“Sports are a social good and a need, not a luxury, especially for the youth of the country. We are seeing the extermination of Greek sport and serious consequences for the future of the country’s youth,» the HOC said in a statement.
HOC vice-president and gymnastics federation president Thanasis Vassiliadis said next year’s budget was set at 14 million euros, 9 million euros of which would be used to pay wages to the 335 federation employees.
“This means Greek sport will have only five million euros to work with. We had 50 percent reductions in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and last year only received 75 percent of what was owed to us,» he told a news conference.
“But the reduction in 2013 will be 80 percent and that’s brutal. This will be the final blow for us.”
HOC secretary-general and fencing federation president Manolis Katsiadakis said the government wanted federations to find sponsors to make up the funding shortfall but even the biggest sports were struggling to secure backers.
“It was a foregone conclusion: no more money for sports,» he said, adding that there would be «terrible consequences».
“The new year will find the federations closed. This is not a threat but a reality. We will not have money to compete,» he said.
Swimming federation president Dimitris Diathessopoulos said some 1.5 million families were involved in sport in Greece — the equivalent of 60 to 70 percent of the population. Without sports, young people would turn to «bars, cafes, drugs and crime», he added.
If the cuts were approved, he said, «we cannot continue and will have to put a padlock on the swimming federation on January 1 (2013) and stop all competition.”
The toll of five years of recession has seen crowds dwindle even at the biggest football matches in Greece, while many players have gone unpaid as clubs tighten their belts and sponsors slash budgets or pull-out altogether.
The crisis has led to calls for a change to the way Greek sport is financed, notably with a move away from a reliance on state funding.