SPORTS

Super League an important step closer

Greek soccer club bosses yesterday voted in favor of a slicker, better-organized and higher-standard league competition at a meeting in Athens yesterday whose outcome is being regarded as a major step toward the plan’s realization. The leaders of eight clubs, including the country’s two biggest, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, voted in favor of reducing the number of teams in a prospective Super League competition. Five club representatives, however, abandoned the meeting, three ahead of the voting and two more during the vote itself. A further three abstained. Though the voting backing a fresh, trimmed-down Super League was far from unanimous, it is believed that the eight votes in favor of the plan, from a total of 11 that saw the meeting through, are sufficient to keep the league’s rebirth plan rolling. A second and final round of voting is scheduled to take place at a meeting of the new league’s prospective board on Friday, with second- and third-division club representatives in attendance. Should the plan survive that meeting, as is expected, a specific proposal concerning the prospective league’s details will be forwarded to the deputy culture minister, Giorgos Orfanos, who holds the government’s sports portfolio. Representatives of the Aegaleo, Ionikos and PAOK clubs abandoned yesterday’s meeting before the voting procedures had begun, while the Iraklis and Kallithea officials joined once voting got under way. Last month, PAOK’s president Ioannis Goumenos had claimed to be in favor of the plan after initially failing to offer support. «We’re turning to a new clean page and starting from scratch. A new idea is clashing with the establishment,» Panathinaikos chief Yiannis Vardinoyiannis told reporters following yesterday’s meeting. Socrates Kokkalis, the boss at Olympiakos, winner of eight of the country’s last nine league titles, noted: «The decision is leading us to new and better days. The standard will rise, the league will be more competitive and teams will receive greater income. Also, clubs will get stronger and the spectacle offered will be more appealing for fans.»  AEK’s boss Demis Nikolaidis, the club’s recently retired star striker who, as an administrator, has received general praise for his stubborn effort to rid Greek soccer of hooliganism, also spoke favorably about the establishment of a new league. «Whatever happens, it will be for the good of Greek soccer as justice and meritocracy will exist,» Nikolaidis said. Alexandros Lykourezos, president of EPAE, the association of professional Greek soccer clubs, and the federation chief, Vassilis Gagatsis, both say they are in favor of the Super League’s establishment. Meanwhile, back to current competition, Panathinaikos hosts Italian club Udinese tonight in a Group C Champions League match rated as crucial in determining which club will end second in the group for a berth for the next round. Star-studded front-runner Barcelona has already assured its place with 10 points from four games. A draw or win against Werder in Barcelona tonight would, moreover, assure the Spanish club top spot in Group C. Panathinaikos, Udinese and German club Werder Bremen are all tied on four points with two rounds of play remaining. Panathinaikos, which went down 3-0 against Udinese in Italy earlier this season, will be hoping to maintain, or even solidify, its respectable home record in recent Champions League encounters. The Athens club has won four and drawn two of its last six Champions League home games. Udinese, on the other hand, has conceded four goals in each of its Champions League away games this season. Last time in Greece, the Italian club lost 3-1 against Panionios in a UEFA Cup game last year.