SPORTS

Soccer’s broadcasting deal

Nine of the Greek soccer first division’s 16 clubs, which had been left without broadcasting deals for the season after their pay-TV medium declared bankruptcy several weeks ago, announced that they have found a new broadcaster in a deal worth 20 million euros. The nine clubs, defending champion Olympiakos, AEK, PAOK, Panionios, Proodeftiki, Xanthi, Ioannina, Aris and Panachaiki, announced that they have reached an agreement with Alpha television station, which held a stake in the collapsed pay-TV channel, Alpha Digital. Six other clubs, Aegaleo, Akratitos, Ionikos, Iraklis, Kallithea and OFI have kept their deals with pay-TV channel Supersport, having refused Alpha Digital’s siren call of far more lucrative contracts which, in the end, it proved incapable of honoring. Following the demise of Alpha Digital on September 11, the league’s organizers, EPAE, suspended competition for several weeks when a request for state compensation to the financially strapped clubs for losses estimated at about 35 million euros a year was flatly refused. However, it remains unclear how the new deal’s income will be derived. One of Alpha channel’s main shareholders, Dimitris Kontominas, has already pledged that the station will provide the nine clubs with 7.9 million of the 20-million-euro deal. The remainder is expected to come from revenues generated by two lottery firms, the privately held Intralot and state-run OPAP. The two jointly participate in OPAP’s most successful game «Pame Stoichima» (Let’s Bet). However, the government, the major shareholder in OPAP, has, so far, categorically refused to allow Greek League matches in Pame Stoichima, as Intralot is owned by Socrates Kokkalis, also the owner of Olympiakos. Prior to the recent local elections, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos had noted that state funds would not be provided for what he called an untrustworthy league run by corrupt officials. But the promise of increased exposure of games as a result of the new broadcasting deal seems to have renewed interest at OPAP, which runs the country’s soccer pool Pro-Po. Considering the current market conditions, the 20-million-euro deal, for 24 rounds of play, seems quite a price to pay for a league not renowned for its quality or excitement. Last year, another private television station, MEGA Channel, paid less than half this sum, or 9.7 million euros, to acquire the broadcasting rights to the Champions League, Europe’s most lucrative club-level competition.