Outlook on the short-term future of Panathinaikos
The past week has brought with it many new developments regarding the future of Panathinaikos FC, most notably in the form of current President Giannis Alafouzos announcing his intentions to step down. As previously discussed, this could have potentially severe repercussions such as relegation to Greece’s third division. However, what is installed for the immediate future of the club and what are the possible paths the club can take to avoid the worst case scenario?
It has been reported that former long-serving goalkeeper, Vasilis Konstantinou, has arranged a list of wealthy members of the Panathinaikos world, including Nikos Pateras and Adamantios Polemis among others. Konstantinou would meet with these men as early as Monday, informing them of the current situation, with the intention of discuss ways forward for the struggling club and ask if they were prepared to help out in any capacity. Meetings have not taken place but this is seen as an alternative to the Giannakopoulos-led PAO Foundation initiative. Time will tell if this move will produce any positive developments but expectations are low.
The bleak outlook facing the club has not been lost on the playing group as they seek answers during these turbulent times, particularly the foreign players, who would be naturally anxious about receiving payments. Alafouzos has spoken to Ouzounidis and has told him of he is not leaving in the immediate future and will still contribute funds to meet the basic requirements. Gate 13 also told Ouzounidis and the squad that they will remain by their side and continue their support but the players themselves must show they bleed for the shirt. In spite of all of this, the team went down 2-0 away to Panetolikos in meek fashion, further increasing the calls of discontent from the fan base. The Greens were never in the contest with a side a shadow of its former self. As many fans were fearing in the off season, the recruitment highlights the low ambition of an owner who desperately wants out and is struggling to repay his debts, with Panathinaikos now fielding mid-table – relegation threatened teams for the Greek Super League standard.
To add insult to injury as they say, fans can also expect the departures of better players in the January transfer window in an attempt to bring about more funds to repay the debt. Goalkeeper Vlachodimos, has been rumoured to be joining Portuguese outfit Benfica for 2 million Euro (a deadline day move had previously fallen through). It is understood the stumbling block to the deal is the timing of when the transfer fee is to be paid, with the Greens in desperate need of funds to survive beyond December. This would also be in addition to funds they are awaiting from Nova Sports as part of the TV rights deal. New captain Kourbelis is the one believed to be able to raise the most funds. A January sale of 5 million Euro of the talented, versatile central midfielder and centre back, would further add to the on-field woes Panathinaikos faces, thus making it even harder to win games. It would, however, be a welcome bit of money from Alafouzos’ perspective as it would contribute to his debt repayments. Such a firesale of the club’s best players would drag the budget down to only 8 million Euro which would only add to fan discontent.
There appear to be three ways forward looking into the future, with the unwanted option of bankruptcy being one solution. This would result in relegation to Greece’s third tier and seems to be a real possibility at the moment. Costs are much higher than revenue and 2 million Euro is needed by the PAE to meet its December obligations, while more than 15 million Euro will be required by the end of the season. Alafouzos will contribute until May as the debts stem from his personal guarantees. The fact that there is no saviour at the present moment in time, makes this option a possible sad reality.
Another option is Alafouzos reaching a deal with Giannakopoulos. The basketball guru has already made his plan of PAO Foundation clear, with the intentions of reviving the amateur associations of Panathinaikos and having a centralised base at OAKA. Giannakopoulos has already stated that he cannot bear the burden of funding alone which is why he wishes to create a group of entrepreneurs that can assist and have contacts with the Government to rent all Olympic Sports centre facilities. These processes, however, are time consuming and will not solve Panathinaikos’ short-term needs. Giannakopoulos wants the deal to be on his terms and it must be remembered that previous meetings with Alafouzos have stalled.
Furthermore, another more left-field option, is that a new investor appears out of the blue. For many months now, Alafouzos attempted to advertise the club to wealthy Greek businessmen, but no one came forward. One reason for this was that Alafouzos himself was unwilling to disclose the severity of the financial situation at play. There have been rumours in previous years about Arab or Chinese investors wanting to get involved, and the club hired a company to explore the prospect of introducing foreign investment, however, the result was poor. This option appears unrealistic to say the least and Panathinaikos cannot wait or hope for this otherwise bankruptcy becomes even more of a reality.