Court shows AEK the red card as station wins battle of broadcasters

Net Med Hellas, the parent company of pay-TV channel Super Sport, whose broadcasting rights for frontrunner AEK’s games in the national soccer league went awry after the team recently opted to hand coverage of its games to a rival station, was handed an injunction yesterday that allows it to resume televising the team’s games. A former owner of the AEK club, Net Med Hellas filed charges against the team after it decided to neglect the broadcasting deal some three months ago and hand over the rights to broadcast its games to rival station Alpha Digital. Yesterday’s injunction obliges AEK to reopen its stadium gates to Super Sport’s crews as of January 20, when the team clashes against defending champion Olympiakos, until a final verdict is reached in court. AEK is expected to lodge an appeal. Besides AEK, seven other clubs, Panionios, Ethnikos Asteras, Panachaiki, PAOK, Panserraikos, Ioannina and Proodeftiki, have also abandoned Net Med’s broadcasting deal. At this stage it seems likely that they will resume business with Super Sport. These recent developments have caused much concern at Alpha Digital, which seems likely to lose the most commercial draw of its entire entertainment package, the national soccer league. Four other teams that have also switched to Alpha Digital, Olympiakos, Panathinaikos – incidentally, the country’s two biggest clubs – as well as Aris and Xanthi, all seem unwilling to make any changes. Speaking to Kathimerini yesterday, Alpha Digital’s chief at the sports desk, Haris Alevropoulos, said the station would continue to broadcast AEK’s home games, regardless of the injunction. Part of AEK’s broadcasting deal with Alpha Digital includes the provision of 3 billion drachmas to cover the team’s operating costs. So far, the club is estimated to have already spent two thirds of this amount. In other words, should Super Sport be awarded in the final verdict, AEK will need to return this amount to Alpha Digital. The team could also be obliged to cough up a compensation fee for Net Med’s Super Sport, covering the channel’s losses in revenues. AEK’s «strongman» Makis Psomiadis – he actually runs the club, without an official title – refused to comment on the injunction awarded to Net Med, saying he would need to be fully updated before making a statement. Besides the broadcasting concerns, AEK could face problems with holding on to its Portuguese coach Fernando Santos next season. The coach, who publicly condemned the club’s decision to recently sign striker Ilia Ivic from Aris, told reporters that the decision was the administration’s, not his. Santos, who was hired by AEK last summer and rejuvenated the side, implied that he would not renew his contract with the club at the end of this season. Ivic, who held a 20-minute discussion with Santos, with Psomiadis sitting by, said he would respond on the field. Ivic, who is expected to sign his contract with AEK after completing his medical examinations, most likely today, has already commenced training with the club.

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