Panathinaikos in chaos as Alafouzos confirms departure
Panathinaikos was thrown into chaos on Thursday evening after president Giannis Alafouzos announced that he is officially leaving the SuperLeague club.
The 60-year-old shipping and media magnate, the club’s major shareholder, has decided to end his association with the Athens giants after a five-and-a-half-year spell, a move which leaves the team in financial limbo and risking relegation.
“After taking the initiative to save Panathinaikos from the brink of disaster by creating the Panathinaikos Alliance in 2012, I have invested 42 million euros out of my own pocket,” said Alafouzos via a written statement broadcast via the TV channel he owns, Skai.
He continued: “Today our club is once again at a tipping point. For me personally it is impossible, both from a psychological and economic point of view, to continue to maintain and manage the team.”
The news will come as a massive blow for PAO fans, with the clubs top flight status now under a cloud if no new investor is found immediately.
With reported debts of up to 50 million euros and no white knight investors or prospective owner lined up to replace him, the club is in real danger of having to file for bankruptcy.
This would mean relegation from the SuperLeague to Greece’s third tier and starting again from scratch, just like AEK Athens, who are now back in the top flight and in European competition, did in 2013.
Alafouzos did state that he was prepared to inject further cash to help keep the club liquid for a short period until (hopefully) a new owner or investor is found.
He said: “I am prepared to honor up my commitments up to a maximum of 20 million euro. This is the maximum I can do; I have given what I could and have tried to do the best I can. But here is where I have to draw the line and stop.”
Alafouzos also rattled off a parting shot to the dark forces which continue to plague Greek football, such as the refereeing setup, corruption and crowd violence.
He said: “I had the romantic illusion that by setting up a healthy club without any political or other complicated dependencies that I could help change the face of Greek football. I was wrong. The systems and attitudes that prevent our country from having a normal, European football championship are too deeply rooted.”
FROM SAVIOR AND HERO TO ZERO
Alafouzos came into the club on a wave of optimism in May 2012, founding the Panathinaikos Alliance organization including players and fans to take a majority stake in the club.
In September 2012 he was elected president so that the club could restructure and consolidate.
But fast forward to 2017 and after stepping down as president earlier in the year, he has now opted to end his short tenure as the club talisman with just one Greek Cup won during his time at the helm.
It is now the worst case scenario envisaged by PAO fans when Alafouzos and Dimitris Giannakopoulos, owner of the basketball team, failed to reach an agreement on a takeover deal a few days ago.
The major sticking point in negotiations was the amount of debt Alafouzos was to cover upon his exit. It remains to be seen if Giannakopoulos is serious about taking over, or if another investor can be found at such a period in the season.