Soccer league postponed

Stunned by the loss of lucrative contracts with the now-defunct Alpha Digital pay-TV channel, soccer clubs yesterday decided to suspend league games to pressure the government to help bail them out. Their first achievement, however, was to place in jeopardy their largest remaining source of funds. The Greek soccer pool and lottery organization, OPAP, said that the soccer teams were breaking their contractual obligations and that it might have to reconsider the 4 million euros it spends on sponsoring professional soccer and seek compensation from the teams. The general meeting of the Association of Professional Football Clubs (EPAE) resulted in a decision to postpone the fifth round of play from Sept. 28 to Oct. 26, as a means of pressing the government to give in to allowing soccer teams to participate on the lucrative Pame Stoichima (Let’s Bet) game. Only Panathinaikos and Iraklis disagreed with the suspension. The decision was seen as a gesture that seems more dramatic than it is: National team games and two rounds of local elections (October 13 and 20) mean that games can not be held between September 28 and October 26 anyway. EPAE will meet again on October 23 to determine its future course of action. Champions League and UEFA matches will continue. During the meeting, the chairman of Ionikos, Nikos Kanellakis, slapped Argyris Livas, former legal counsel to Olympiakos. OPAP President Costas Koskinas responded immediately to EPAE’s decision. «We inform you that OPAP SA will be forced to break the contract between us should the league postponement decided by the general assembly go ahead,» he wrote to EPAE. OPAP is considering seeking 3 million euros in damages if the Pro-Po pools are hit by the postponement, as well as asking for 300,000 euros per team and 500,000 euros from EPAE, and ending its annual sponsorship deals. Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Lianis, in charge of sports, repeated in a news conference held yesterday that teams would not be able to participate in the Pame Stoichima betting pools. «Everybody was confident that they would be able to catch up the time, but they have lost two or three months,» Oswald said. (AP)

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