AEK boss launches legal attack against club fans over trouble

Appearing determined to stamp out fan violence at his club, as he has repeatedly pledged since taking over at the beginning of last season, AEK boss Demis Nikolaidis filed charges late Tuesday night against organized fans for loss of profits in reaction to trouble that erupted in the stands during Monday’s opening game for the soccer season against Atromitos. Nikolaidis, a former player at the club who was adored by fans for his devotion during his playing years, has submitted video footage of Monday’s violence to police authorities and requested that the offenders be arrested. It was reported that Nikolaidis may have also provided the names of certain individuals to authorities. The club’s boss said season ticket holders would be compensated should a sports tribunal penalize AEK with a home game fan ban as punishment for Monday’s trouble. Since assuming the club’s top administrative role, Nikolaidis has expressed unbending support for trouble-free Greek soccer that, ultimately, will be open to all interested spectators, including families. Domestic attendance figures have plummeted over the past decade or so. Persistent fan violence has been the main cause of the slide, along with the lack of an effective strategy to confront and solve the problem of hooliganism, despite no shortage of high-level talks. Nikolaidis spearheaded a group of investors last summer to take over the historic but troubled club, one of Greece’s three biggest in terms of popularity and success, and save it from looming bankruptcy and relegation to amateur-level competition. Negotiations with state authorities, early in his tenure, led to the nullification of considerable debt owed to the state. Poor and corrupt management by a series of previous club bosses generated the club’s administrative and financial debacle. Despite AEK’s feeble financial and administrative condition last season, the team managed to capture third place in the league standings. Reports of strained ties between Nikolaidis and AEK’s biggest organized fan group, which calls itself Original, had surfaced prior to Monday’s game. Both sides, however, denied that there were any problems. Nikolaidis decided to take legal measures against the club’s fans late Tuesday night after consulting the club’s legal advisers. Ironically, in the past, the club’s young and ambitious boss, who sports an AEK tattoo on his arm, occasionally joined organized fans in the stands as a show of solidarity. Now, though, he has turned into one of their foes. Immediately after assuming the role of club boss, Nikolaidis said he would not tolerate any misbehavior from AEK fans. Last season, to prove his point, he confiscated a season ticket from a club fan who had tossed a bottle at Olympiakos’s Brazilian star Rivaldo during an AEK-Olympiakos clash. His initiative was fully endorsed at the time by club fans, organized and not, but it now appears that Nikolaidis will need to deal with some opposition.