PAOK boss resigns his post

The administration of cash-strapped Thessaloniki soccer club PAOK resigned yesterday amid precarious financial conditions that threaten to oust the historic team, one of the country’s biggest, from professional competition. The outgoing president, Yiannis Youmenos, who arrived at PAOK late in 2003 with a considerable background in insurance and stock-broking, had been ushered in by former coach Angelos Anastassiadis, currently in charge of the Cypriot national team. PAOK’s acute financial straits, which have shown no sign of recovery, were dealt a further blow last month when a former coach at the club, Austrian Rolf Fringer, filed a case with soccer’s international governing body for funds owed to him by the Thessaloniki team. Sanctions by FIFA, the governing body, would most likely include a severe deduction of points that would probably sink the team into lower divisions. At best, PAOK would probably be barred from using recent signings. Fringer, who is reportedly owed 200,000 euros by his former club, had not received any payment for two years, despite an agreement, and has demanded a lump sum. PAOK reportedly also owes a total of 600,000 euros to two former players who have taken their cases to FIFA. Youmenos submitted a letter of resignation, covering his entire board, to the club’s amateur division, which controls all of PAOK’s sporting teams except for soccer and basketball. The amateur division’s boss, Thanassis Katsaris, has already approached prominent Thessaloniki-based entrepreneurs in search of emergency funds and a takeover deal. Sensing a sinking ship, PAOK was also abandoned, just weeks ago, by its former soccer coach, Ilie Dumitrescu, who spent eight months with the club. To his credit, the Romanian’s successor, Serb coach Momcilo Vukotic, has managed to keep the club’s financial alarm some distance from his squad. Last weekend, PAOK overtook Aegaleo for fourth place after beating the Athens club at its home ground with a 2-0 score. Meanwhile, troubled crosstown rival Iraklis, last in the standings after capturing fourth place last season, yesterday hired a new coach, Slovakian Jozef Bubenko, who served with Athens club Panionios for two years until 2004.

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