SPORTS

Federation backs overhaul

The Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) has thrown its weight behind an ambitious scheme to restructure its top division to make it more attractive and profitable. The plan to create a new Super League has already received the backing of a majority of top-flight clubs, including rivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, who voted in favor of the changes last week. «EPO has expressed its support for this proposal,» a senior EPO source told Reuters after a four-hour board meeting yesterday. «The EPO chairman will visit the sports minister tomorrow [today] with the club presidents to discuss this plan.» Greek soccer is again in turmoil this season, with low attendance and crowd trouble persisting despite the surprise Euro 2004 triumph in Portugal. Champions Olympiakos played their five first home games behind closed doors as punishment for fan trouble last season. Last weekend, AEK supporters wreaked havoc in a match with lowly Livadiakos in the town of Livadia, attacking police and causing a 20-minute delay. The new plan, submitted last month by northern provincial side Xanthi, features bonuses for clubs staying in the first division, for promoted teams and for good referees. It also sets quality standards for stadiums and allows clubs to negotiate TV rights individually or jointly. The plan includes handing over control of the league to paid managers instead of a board of club presidents (EPAE), who often cut meetings short due to bitter disputes and even fist fights. World soccer’s governing body FIFA will be watching with interest after criticizing the Greek government for interfering with the running of EPO. But the creation of a Super League is not directly linked to FIFA’s concerns about Greek soccer. Deputy Culture Minister George Orfanos, who holds the sports portfolio and will have the final say, openly supports the plan, although others believe it is doomed to fail. «This plan is not feasible, especially with teams that are financially troubled. It makes big teams even stronger and more powerful and smaller teams much weaker,» EPAE Deputy Chairman Victor Mitropoulos, one of the most vocal critics, told Reuters recently.