SPORTS

Greek volleyball sharpens its sales image

Top-ranked volleyball officials running the country’s major clubs have decided to sweep aside various differences in a bid to popularize their sport, which has remained overshadowed by soccer and basketball. At recent meetings, officials have pledged to drop club allegiances and work in unison. Local officials have set as their objective the healthy state of volleyball in Italy, where the game is highly popular and attracts entire families. «Everything begins with the human factor. The right people emerged at the right time and we’ve reached a clear conclusion. If we don’t strengthen through unity, then professional volleyball is set to suffer bad times,» Olympiakos representative Pantelis Tarnatoros told Kathimerini in an interview. Tarnatoros, a former handball player who was later drawn to volleyball, and other officials hope to transform the game into an appealing prospect for the entire family. «On a personal level, we don’t expect anything from volleyball. We’re united by our love for the game. We’ve understood that no matter how much time and money we invest, if we don’t rectify the product as a whole, our efforts will go astray,» said Tarnatoros. «So we’ve swept aside individual club interests with the aim of establishing a competitive, exciting league,» he added. In Greek volleyball, there are three big guns, while the rest of the teams lag way behind. How will this gap be bridged? We plan to offer support to all clubs so their administrations can get organized. Financial sources permitting, through sponsorship, we will invest in players to improve team images and draw more sponsors. We’re interested in approaching youngsters who play volleyball during their school years and then give it up. Can volleyball attract an entire family to stadiums? It’s the ideal family sport. We need to establish prerequisites so that families can come along, as volleyball is popular among all. We need to build appropriate stadiums to draw parents and their children – facilities that will make them feel safe and comfortable. As for this objective, you may confront some problems from club hooligans who turn up at matches to let out steam… Our priority is to distance the troublemakers. We’ve discussed the issue and are close to making unprecedented decisions – by Greek standards – to marginalize the sport’s fringe elements. These people are not fans and don’t love the sport. We’re going to create conditions that will attract true fans. Besides the league and stadium improvements, what other plans are there to attract sports fans to volleyball? Various events and tournaments will be held throughout the year. We want to establish volleyball as a summer sport, too. Besides the internationals, club players, too, must be given incentives to maintain high levels of fitness so that the league becomes more competitive. League officials are now working collectively, not individually.