SPORTS

Greek soccer league again in suspense for lack of revenue

The state-run sports lottery OPAP yesterday denied news of its involvement in a new 20-million-euro broadcasting deal, announced a day earlier, by nine of the Greek first-division soccer league’s 16 clubs. Initial reports stated that the nine clubs – defending champion Olympiakos, AEK, PAOK, Panionios, Proodeftiki, Xanthi, Ioannina, Aris and Panachaiki – all without broadcasting deals and cash-strapped since the financial demise of pay-TV station Alpha Digital last September, had reached a new deal with the non-subscription Alpha channel, which held a stake in the bankrupt venture. Follow-up reports yesterday, however, claimed that one of the nine teams, Aris, had reached a separate deal with pay-TV station Super Sport. Two others, Xanthi and Ioannina, were expected to follow, the reports added. The league’s other seven clubs, including one of the country’s biggest, Panathinaikos, are on a separate broadcasting contract with Supersport. The league’s organizers, EPAE, had suspended competition for several weeks after the government refused to compensate clubs for losses estimated at 35 million euros following Alpha Digital’s collapse. Yesterday, Olympiakos’s president, Socrates Kokkalis, whose club was deprived of approximately 11.2 million euros because of the station’s bankruptcy, called for further suspension of play until the broadcasting issue is resolved. But EPAE, which has lined up a series of meetings, said a decision would be reached on November 20. Initial claims by the nine clubs stated that their 20-million-euro deal entailed receiving 7.9 million euros from Alpha channel, while the remaining 12.1 million would be provided by both OPAP and the privately held lottery firm Intralot. Responding to questions by reporters over the conflicting reports on OPAP’s involvement, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos pointed out that «the State is not a business partner of either the (professional soccer clubs) or television stations,» while adding that it was «responsible for the creation and control of the implementation of sports legislation, which, among other things, also handles the issue of broadcasting rights.» On OPAP’s promotional strategy, Venizelos noted that its policies were made with the aim of yielding maximum returns. Choices, he said, would continue being made according to «television rating figures and promotional reach of various sporting events.»