SPORTS

Hefty fine threatens AEK’s future as a professional club

Struggling to get back on its feet after a new administration was recently appointed to rectify the club’s dire financial situation, AEK soccer club was sent reeling further on Tuesday by a 23-million-euro fine imposed on the team by the State’s financial crimes squad, SDOE, for false invoices issued by a former president. SDOE has decided to withhold 50 percent of the club’s future earnings and freeze half its bank accounts. Makis Psomiadis, the team’s ex-boss, recently sold his 38 percent stake in AEK to British firm ENIC, which now holds a 72 percent stake and is seeking to financially restructure the club before eventually selling out. But the hefty fine, which the club said it would appeal, threatens to derail AEK’s financial recovery, and, moreover, as unrealistic is it may seem, relegate the popular club to amateur competition. All professional Greek clubs, meaning teams competing in the first, second, and third divisions, face a July 14 deadline to submit documents certifying financial soundness to the Professional Sports Committee. Those which fail to do so, or whose financial details are assessed as unsatisfactory, will automatically be relegated to the fourth division. The measure comes as part of a wider effort to help financially restabilize Greek clubs. Many were undermined further following the the collapse of pay-TV station Alpha Digital last September, which has deprived clubs of the considerable broadcast fees on which their budgets depended. AEK’s players are owed fees from last season, while some, including star player Vassilis Tsartas, are threatening to leave. The team’s most popular player, Demis Nikolaidis, has already announced his departure. «There are lots of pending issues and I’m afraid that things might get worse. We will wait a few more days while efforts are made to improve the situation,» AEK coach Dusan Bajevic said yesterday. «Under these conditions, it will be extremely difficult to achieve our goals.»