Greek Superleague Begins With Limited European Prospect and Uncertainty Off the Pitch



superleague1The Greek Superleague is upon us once again as the new season premiers on Sunday. Greek teams have made some prolific signings this summer such as Esteban Cambiasso to Olympiacos and Michael Essien to Panathinaikos F.C., while teams like PAOK F.C. are expected to be contending for the title.

Champions League Football is Not Guaranteed

Olympiacos has won the Greek league 17 times in the last 19 seasons. The last time their reign was interrupted was the 2009-2010 season when their arch rivals, Panathinaikos F.C. won the championship.

Amidst its repetitive outcome, the Greek championship had one other significant prize that it recently lost: a direct ticket to the UEFA Champions League. Following Panathinaikos’ failure to reach the Champions League play off round this year, it is all but certain that this season’s champion will as well as the league’s runner up will have to begin from the third qualifying round, and thus overcome two teams, to secure a spot in the 2016-2017 Champion’s League group stages.

The Champions League is arguably Europe’s most prestigious tournament. It is also a significant source of revenue, as a place in the group stages automatically means a 12 million euro revenue, while victories rake in 1.5 million euros and draws in half a million euros. Thus the six games that a team plays could prove quite profitable regardless of whether it manages to advance to the next round.

Olympiacos’s steady presence in the Champions League as a result of their domestic dominance has helped a team playing in a country whose financial hardships have been well documented. In the last five years, the Piraeus team spent 81.88 million euros and earned 77.3 million euros from player transfers since the summer before the 2010/2011 Superleague.

In contrast to Olympiacos, after a decade of spending far more than what the team earned from transfers, Panathinaikos has had a budget surplus of 11.89 million euros from transfer transactions having spent just 5.22 million euros since the summer before the 2010-2011 season.

Ongoing Match Fixing Investigations

The headlines this season could possibly concern developments off the football pitch, as has been the case in Greece in the past few years. These off-pitch developments could prove crucial for the future of Greek football.

Greek football, including the lower tiers, is still being marred by the allegations of widespread match fixing.

An investigation launched by Greek authorities back in June 2011 is currently moving forward as 85 suspects will stand trial for various crimes related to match fixing in Greece. Despite this initiative, the sense of corruption in Greek football is still rampant. Although Olympiacos president Evangelos Marinakis has been acquitted of all charges, the involvement of senior referees, players, managers and other individuals related to Greek football has already been a detriment to the league’s credibility.

The resolution of this case will shed some more light into the extent of match fixing and corruption in Greek football. It is unknown by when these case will actually be closed.

EPO and the Sport Ministry

Another ongoing sideline conflict has been brewing between the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) and the Greek Ministry of Sport. As part of a new law that he introduced, the Sport Ministry insists that EPO needs to adopt regular judges in its arbitration court.

EPO wants the court to include lawyers, which the Sport Ministry opposes. In a meeting on August 19, Alternative Minister of Sport Stavros Kontonis warned EPO that if they do not comply with this directive, they face immediate sanctions and could even risk losing the league’s official recognition from the Greek government and consequently the European Union.

Administrative struggles have been a part of Greek football for years now, whether it is on an inter-presidential level or among different authorities of the Greek polity. With Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigning, this matter could be further prolonged.