Greek football, consistently in turmoil on and off the pitch, has been plunged into yet more ignominy with the country’s oldest and most revered club Panathinaikos banned from European competition for three seasons for failing to pay their debts.
The former European Cup finalists, an institution in Greece and beyond, have been handed the sanction by UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body which has clearly lost patience with its rules being breached, with the ban imposed if and when the club qualifies for either of the two European competitions over the next three seasons.
UEFA said it acted after Panathinaikos failed to settle their unpaid bills by March 1.
“The Adjudicatory Chamber confirmed that Panathinaikos FC is excluded from participating in the next UEFA club competition for which it would otherwise qualify in the next three seasons,” UEFA said in a statement.
“The Adjudicatory Chamber also ordered that the amount of €100,000 (£87,541) as part of the total fine of €200,000 is no longer suspended and is due immediately.”
The 20-time Greek champions, who have fallen on hard times in recent months, are currently eighth in Greece’s Superleague and have no hope of competing in Europe next season.
In December the club was found to be in breach of the overdue payables requirement of UEFA’s club licensing and financial fair play regulations and were fined. That was suspended pending the March deadline. On March 19, however, the panel’s investigatory chamber concluded that Panathinaikos had still not paid the unspecified debts, which meant the December punishment became active.
Panathinaikos have a rich European pedigree having lost the 1971 European Cup final to Ajax before semi-final defeats by Liverpool in 1985 and Ajax in 1996.
But times are now very different with the club exiting this season’s Europa League in the play-off round while recently the Panathinaikos players briefly went on strike in protest over unpaid wages from last year. Owner Yiannis Alafouzos agreed at the weekend to sell the club to an Asian investment group.
The Greek championship has been marred by a series of incidents including crowd violence and investigations by prosecutors into corruption. Earlier this month Olympiakos players were fined €400,000 and ordered to go on holiday by the club president following a string of poor results while last month, PAOK Salonika’s president was banned for three years for entering the pitch with a pistol during a top-flight game against AEK Athens.