AEK boss meets sports chief over debt to the state

Financially troubled AEK club’s president, Demis Nikolaidis, emerged confident of a solution from a meeting yesterday with the government’s top sporting official over the team’s debt owed to the state. Nikolaidis, a former star player at AEK who retired last season after a brief stay with Spanish club Atletico Madrid, spearheaded a group of investors in taking over the troubled club last summer. He described yesterday’s talks with Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Orfanos, the man in charge of the country’s sports portfolio, as promising. A financial official of the club, also in attendance, said AEK’s current debt to the state reached 30 million euros. Crippled by debt to other teams and the Greek state, AEK has been on the verge of financial collapse for more than a year. During Euro 2004, in the summer, an Athens court had turned down a request by the Nikolaidis group to cancel much of its debt. AEK, Greece’s third-biggest club in terms of popularity and titles, has so far survived threats of relegation to amateur competition and disqualification from the UEFA Cup.