SPORTS

Future at Aris looking gloomy

Promise of a better future at struggling Thessaloniki soccer club Aris, following last week’s takeover by a Saudi Arabian investor, seems to be fading swiftly. Team players, now in Austria for pre-season training, skipped training yesterday after the club’s new owner, Khalid Al Kasimi, failed to meet a promise to deliver portions of unpaid salaries from the previous season. Moreover, the players threatened to return to Thessaloniki today should their pay cheques not come through. The financial turmoil at Aris is now seriously threatening to deprive the club of its place in the first division this coming season. At this stage, it appears likely that the club could fail to meet State-imposed financial criteria by the nearing July 17 deadline. If so, the club would suffer relegation to amateur competition, as part of the Greek State’s intentions to stabilize professional Greek soccer’s financial condition. Concern over Aris’s chances of meeting the deadline rose yesterday when the team failed to provide funds needed to settle outstanding tax payments. Ridding themselves of tax obligations is one of the issues clubs must settle to be given a certificate endorsing their financial standing by the newly assembled Professional Sports Committee, EEA. The certificate will give clubs the green light to continue competing in professional leagues, that is the first, second and third divisions. According to reports, officials of the Aris club met with EEA’s top man, Constantinos Papalakis, late last night and requested an extension for the July 17 deadline. It remained unclear whether Papalakis met the request. At this stage, the government appears determined to maintain its shape-up-or-ship-out stance against cash-strapped clubs. Yesterday, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos warned again that the law would be firmly implemented, without exception. «The law will be implemented until the very end. EEA is an independent committee which neither bows to political pressure nor is a part of any political party,» Venizelos remarked. Adding to the woes at Aris, the manager of a former player, Iranildo, yesterday informed the club that a court has ordered the Greek team to pay the Brazilian player 400,000 euros in unpaid fees. In other turmoil surrounding professional Greek soccer, a group of teams led by Panathinaikos yesterday initiated legal action procedures to oust the chief of EPAE, the association of professional Greek soccer clubs. The man in question, Thanassis Kanellopoulos, is widely believed to share an allegiance with Olympiakos, winner of the last seven league titles, over institutional matters concerning Greek soccer. The group of teams yesterday took its case to a court of first instance, calling for a freeze on all general meetings by second and third division clubs. The court is expected to issue a verdict today.