SPORTS

Clubs fail to scoop the pools

A renewed attempt by professional clubs in Greece to gain a share of profits in the new state-run soccer pools, «Stoichima» (bet), as well as licenses to operate their own betting and gambling premises at stadiums, was turned down by the government’s top sporting official yesterday, who cited the lack of relevant legislation to cover such initiatives. Deputy Culture Minister Yiannis Kourakis, also the country’s highest ranked sporting official, gave the heads of EPAE, Greece’s association of professional soccer clubs, the latest bad news for soccer clubs at a meeting between the two sides yesterday. Representing EPAE were the association’s three top-ranked officials, Thanassis Kanellopoulos, its president, and his two deputies, Socrates Kokkalis and Evangelos Mytilineos. Greek soccer clubs have – so far – made unsuccessful attempts to gain operating licenses for their own gambling premises at stadiums as outlets for state pools and other games of chance. «We listened to EPAE’s business proposal with great interest,» Kourakis said after the meeting. Though EPAE’s proposal was rejected, Kourakis said he had made two counterproposals to EPAE’s leaders. One entailed setting up an inter-Balkan soccer pool, the other, a new Under-21s national competition whose games would be charted on their own «Pro-Po,» the long-established soccer pools. The minister also announced that a committee would be established and charged with investigating a series of fiercely debated topics such as violence at games, administration of performance-enhancing drugs to players, and refereeing. The committee will be expected to produce a draft bill aimed at tackling these issues by the end of next month, Kourakis said. Responding to the meeting’s outcome, Kanellopoulos, the EPAE president, noted that the financial woes weighing down professional Greek soccer clubs had created the need for additional funds. «New income sources need to be found for professional soccer to make it independent,» Kanellopoulos said, who added that he and his associates had also raised the issue of funds for the refurbishment of soccer stadiums around the country. The State has promised to offer 20 billion drachmas for ground-improvement projects. Kanellopoulos’s deputy, Kokkalis, a powerful entrepreneur and owner of defending champion Olympiakos, had his mind focused on Sunday’s clash with league leader AEK, which is two points ahead of the Piraeus side.«I hope it’s a good game,» Kokkalis remarked, «and may the best team win.»