Our Greek correspondent Fotis Voinikas fears for football in his country after AEK's relegation
Fotis Voinikas fears for football in his country after AEK Athens' relegation to the second division.
By Fotis Voinikas
Last Updated: 29/04/13 9:03pm
AEK have, for a number of years, had major economical problems - even before the current financial meltdown which hit the Greek nation as a whole.
Finally AEK have been unable to avoid something that, ten years ago, was unthinkable - relegation.
It is safe to say that the relegation of AEK affects the whole of Greek football.
First of all the absence of AEK means the absence of 89 years of history, a club with 11 Greek titles and 14 Greek cups. In the last 70 years only five clubs have won the championship and AEK are the third most successful.
AEK are also the third biggest club in relation to their fanbase. They have about 15% of all Greek football fans - (Olympiakos have 39% and Panathinaikos 30%) ahead of PAOK (11%) and Aris (5%).
Due to their popularity this means that the interest for the Super League 2013-2014 will be so much less than ever without the fans of AEK.
AEK, established in Athens in 1924 by Greek refugees from Constantinople in the wake of the Greco-Turkish War, is based in the neighbourhood Nea Filadelfia in Athens but they have fans all over Greece. They follow their team in their thousands across the country to support AEK but now they feel betrayed by the club and nobody knows how much they will be impacted by the fact they will be in the second tier next season.
The problem is not that they will not follow AEK - a lot of them will indeed turn their backs for sure - the problem is that they lost their interest for the game and they could end up being lost to football forever.
Almost 10 years ago, AEK had 20,000 season ticket holders and they averaged 26,000 at the Olympic Stadium per game - in stark contrast this season has seen them average Just 6,500.
To be fair to AEK, Greek fans in general have lost their interest in football because of the financial problems of the clubs and this doesn't help the regeneration of Greek football at all .
The deal with Nova Television who holds the rights of the Greek Super League is going to change for the clubs. The absence of AEK is a big blow for Nova, who is the main financial backer for the clubs and according to the contracts next season they will pay 10% less money as they had a clause which meant if one of the big three were relegated, then they would get an automatic reduction.
Their intention is to make a cut of 20% for the clubs in the Super League, but it's something to be discussed. Even if stays at 10% off the total, this could still spell catastrophe for many of the teams who barely survived this season.
The absence of AEK will also impact on the big two Olympiakos and Panathinaikos - whose fans wait for the AEK clash as much as any game. The Greek footballing map has changed, but not surely for the better.
In a few words, the absence of a historical club in Greece like AEK makes the "product" of football less interesting for the football fans at all levels in Greece. On the pitch and out of it.
Many sports papers in Greece are close to closure because there is no longer the extra cash in the country and one of the first things decimated by the Greek financial meltdown is seemingly football.
AEK's absence will affect Greek football next season and everyone is very worried that AEK isn't the end of the collapse of Greek football but only the beginning...