SPORTS

No deadline extension given to soccer clubs

Soccer clubs, obliged to prove they are financially viable before being allowed to participate in next season’s play, are asking for yet another postponement to deal with their debts. However, authorities appear to be sticking to their position. Thanassis Kanellopoulos, head of EPAE, the association of professional soccer clubs, yesterday failed to convince Constantine Papalakis, head of the newly set-up Professional Sports Commission to extend an end-june deadline for soccer clubs to submit their documentation. Kanellopoulos asked Papalakis for debt settlement measures but received the reply that the Commission is not competent to agree to any such thing. Papalakis told Kanellopoulos to bring his case to the Economy and Finance Ministry. «We submitted some of our concerns, especially about settling past debts. We say yes to the application of the law, but the clubs must be given time to conform to its clauses. When the law was not faithfully applied for so many years and there was a general tolerance, we cannot resolve everything in six months’ time,» Kanellopoulos said. The clubs had been warned early this year that, without a certificate by the Commission confirming their finances are in order, they would be relegated to the fourth (amateur) division. Some, however, failed to heed the warning. Second-division Trikala was yanked out of the division late last season and first-division Ioannina was relegated after 90 points were deducted from it over past debts. Papalakis appeared adamant. «The dead are dead. The clubs that will not get a certificate will not participate in the draw (for next season’s schedule) that we have asked to take place between July 23 and 25… We must clean up Greek soccer, we have no other option,» he told reporters after his meeting with Kanellopoulos. One of the teams facing imminent danger of exclusion from professional soccer is PAOK, Thessaloniki’s most popular team. Its financial difficulties have forced many of its players to go to court to rescind their contracts and ask for the money owed to them. Yesterday, an EPAE committee thwarted the attempt of a PAOK player, Pantelis Kaffes, to get out of his contract. The committee postponed the hearing for next week saying that PAOK does not have a management team yet. The following week, the cases of two other PAOK players will be heard. Kaffes, who is being courted by Olympiakos, says he has no desire whatsoever to return to PAOK. PAOK owner Giorgos Batatoudis has been trying to shop the team around, with no takers so far. Yesterday, a businessman, Panos Kehayias, who had previously expressed interest in AEK, said he might be interested.