SPORTS

Olympiakos boss speaks out

Olympiakos soccer club held a news conference yesterday to present a model of its new Karaiskaki Stadium, now under construction, but the team’s boss, Socrates Kokkalis, one of the country’s most powerful entrepreneurs, converted the event into a platform from which he cast widespread criticism against various parties in Greek soccer. Rather than focus his remarks on the new state-of-the-art stadium, a project budgeted at 60 million euros that will be used for soccer qualifiers at next year’s Athens Olympics, Kokkalis took the opportunity to elaborate on the poor finances of rival clubs, condemn the State for lending inadequate support to Greek soccer and sport in general, and, ultimately, highlight his contributions. «The State must realize that sport is a major social issue which must be supported appropriately. Everything needs to be conducted in a controlled fashion so that people stop claiming that presidents are corrupt, or whatever else,» Kokkalis told the news conference. Commenting on the Olympiakos club’s focus on selling season tickets to guarantee raising funds, Kokkalis criticized rival clubs for deriding the marketing policy. «Some individuals are deriding the move and making silly remarks about the season ticket issue. They should understand that procedures such as these offer the only way toward survival,» said Kokkalis. Greek soccer has been in financial disarray since last September’s bankruptcy of pay-TV station Alpha Digital, which deprived most clubs of crucial broadcasting revenues. Kokkalis advised that players, too, would need to do their bit to help Greek soccer out of its financial hole. «The players, in my opinion, haven’t fully realized that soccer is going through a crisis and that they must contribute to the reduction of its outlays,» said Kokkalis. «Soccer, and sports in general, is not just a competitive spectacle between teams, but an entire system that cannot operate with just one or two teams,» alluding to Greek soccer’s domination, competitively, by just a handful of teams. Kokkalis praised his club as being the «only Greek team contributing to the Athens Olympics,» a contribution which, he said, was not getting sufficient recognition. The new stadium being built to replace the recently demolished Karaiskaki Stadium in southern Athens is being pitched as one of Europe’s most modern. Its annual operational costs, once the project is completed, are estimated at 1 million euros.