SPORTS

AEK’s future lies below the second division

Within the week the sports judge of the Super League will confirm what is already certain: AEK will be mathematically relegated to the second division after its fans forced the abandonment of its crucial game at home with Panthrakikos on Sunday. Yet what is likely to happen from then on, is that AEK could drop not one but two divisions at once.

Two Panthrakikos players got hurt, two police officers were injured and 15 AEK “fans” were arrested, including six minors, from a total of 39 people who were detained at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday night, the night that concluded the worst season in the club’s 89-year-long history.

Harsh though it may sound, in strict financial terms AEK was effectively priced out of the Super League.

Cash-strapped and debt-ridden, without a home ground and a wealthy owner to finance it, AEK was forced last summer to let go of virtually all of its players and tried to stay up with a bunch of teenagers, with a few more experienced players added to strike some balance.

This has not worked out, and even if its fans had not doomed it to demotion, the team seemed perfectly ready to go down by itself for lack of quality.

So for now, AEK is a second-division club. The expected deduction of the two points from next season’s championship, in the southern group of the second division known as the Football League, is the least of AEK’s worries at the moment. Because AEK simply cannot afford to play in the Football League next season.

The debts that AEK has amassed after years of poor housekeeping, excessive spending and no control of its fan section that is prone to violence mean that the revenues that every Football League club is entitled to cannot possibly cover the expenses the Yellows of Athens will have in the following 12 months.

The only solution for AEK now is to resolve the soccer club as a company, which will directly send it to the top amateur division, that as of this summer is the third division, after merging with the fourth.

That is what AEK should start making plans for, as this will rid it of its huge debts to the tax authorities, former and current players and coaches etc.

There are rumors that AEK has already agreed to acquire the tax registration number of a club currently in the Football League so as to play in the second division with a slightly different name, but with no debts. That is the only other solution for the club.

As for its home ground, it is obvious it will not be able to stay in the Olympic Stadium, that costs some 1.5 million euros for the clubs paying its rent. The intention of Panathinaikos to return to its traditional home of Apostolos Nikolaidis at Alexandras Avenue will mean the state-owned Olympic Stadium will be left without a tenant come this summer.

AEK will therefore need to move probably to the Ioannis Kamaras stadium at Rizoupoli, that belongs to Apollon Smyrnis FC – the historic, 122-year-old second-division club that is near certain to gain promotion to the Super League this season. That cohabitation might even bring closer a possible merging of the two clubs, although Apollon may well not like this option.

The reason for that is that a healthy club such as Apollon, that has languished for years in the lower divisions, would rather not get suddenly burdened upon its return to the first division with the baggage of the hooligans that merging with AEK will carry with it – those very people who have condemned AEK to its first-ever relegation.