Promise ahead for ailing AEK

Cash-strapped AEK soccer club held a promising general shareholders’ meeting yesterday with solid signs of better days ahead. The meeting followed last weekend’s highly delayed deal for a transfer of a 38-percent stake held by Ippoventure to British firm ENIC, one of the club’s three main shareholders. The club’s new administration, which met yesterday at a general shareholders’ meeting, said it would hold a follow-up session today to elect a new 17-member board. In the days leading to ENIC’s agreement with Ippoventure, AEK was on the verge of disintegration as unpaid players and the team’s coach Dusan Bajevic, who battled hard to keep them on the team’s roster throughout the season, all threatened to quit. ENIC, which now holds a 72-percent stake in AEK, has promised to inject emergency first-round financial aid worth 1 million euros to help cover unpaid fees to players. The British firm intends to improve the club’s financial standing before eventually selling out. Ippoventure is controlled by a scandal-laden former president, Makis Psomiadis. He faces a 12-year prison sentence for a forgery conviction. Last week, a public prosecutor filed money-laundering and embezzlement charges against him following a state audit which revealed that 19 million euros had gone astray during his reign at the club. Reports said that Psomiadis had even pocketed broadcast fees for the club. Besides yesterday’s promising shareholders’ meeting, the news of key player Vassilis Lakis’s decision to sign a new four-year contract worth 700,000 euros annually came as hard evidence of an imminent revival. The remuneration package for the player, also a member of Greece’s national squad, is worth considerably more than his previous deal. Lakis resisted an offer from league champion Olympiakos before signing to continue his tenure with AEK. «The people kept me here and supported me all these years. With my actions, I showed that I wanted to stay and that’s what I did,» Lakis said. «Negotiations will be finalized when the new administration is elected,» he added. Commenting on the developments at the club, Yiannis Granitsas, AEK’s president in the previous administration, stressed the need for fund injections. He avoided discussing any details about ongoing negotiations with players. «Our top priority is to find financial sources. The shareholders will help here. ENIC has promised to help and finance AEK. When the money does arrive, the coach’s aspirations will be met,» Granitsas said, referring to AEK’s roster for next season. «As for the players, contact is being maintained but nothing can be announced at this stage. The certain thing is that we’re all aware of AEK’s condition and we won’t make any moves that will add to the burden.» Greek soccer has been in financial straits since pay-TV Alpha Digital folded last September.

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