By Paul Nicholson
December 5 – Greek champions PAOK, and their fans, have responded furiously to allegations that owner Ivan Savvidis also controls Greek Super League club Xanthi FC.
PAOK, in a statement on the club website, say the story, first reported by ONE Channel (owned by Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis), is the product of “the ridiculous antics and fairytales coming out of Olympiacos and those behind the club”.
“In order to put a swift end to such nonsense, we can categorically say that Ivan Savvidis has absolutely nothing to do with Xanthi FC, nor do any of his relatives,” said the statement.
The club went on to say that they would be following up the allegations with legal action “to deal with these professional liars and slanderers which insult people, their intelligence, as well as clubs.”
The report by the ONE channel identified a money and corporate ownership trail linking Xanthi to Savvidis via his Cyprus-based holding company RFA, the corporate vehicle that holds the ownerships of a number of Savvidis’s investments and through which the bulk of his business dealings appear to be funnelled.
In 2018 Ioannis Kalpazidis, Savvidis’s nephew, acquired the facilities of Xanthi FC via RFA for a sum believed to be €10 million. RFA bought the shares of Vialand, which owns, among other local assets, Xanthi’s stadium and training ground as well as the nearby Le Chalet luxury hotel.
RFA is closely connected to another Cyprus-based corporation, Dimera, which has made multiple loans to RFA companies. Dimera bought the shares of PAOK in 2012. It appears that the paper owner of Dimera could have supplied the finance to acquire the Vialand business.
The links between the organisations go deeper than the paper transactions with Aristeidis Pialoglou, who sits on the board of Xanthi – he is president and CEO of the club – also appearing as CEO of RFA-owned Vialand (owner of Xanthi’s facilities). The report also highlights Nikolas Xalavazis, who is the president of the Savvidis family business and a member of the board of Xanthi FC.
However, the shares of Xanthi club are not owned by any of the above but by Christos Panopoulos and Pialoglou, according to the Greek Committee of Professional Football. Savvidis is not mentioned in those documents.
Greek federation rules forbid multiple club ownership with sanctions including the possibility of relegation for both clubs as well as life bans from football for individuals.
The question is then whether, by his control of the physical assets of Xanthi FC’s stadium and training ground, Savvidis is exercising an undue influence over the club. That implication is vehemently denied by PAOK, and even more so by their fans, who say that it is all mis-information in a media war being waged by Olympiacos against their club.
However, the facts of the shareholdings are clear and in a country where match-fixing and match manipulation is rife, local hostilities fierce (and often violent), and where all trust in local referees and the FA disappeared, the questions over control are inevitable.
So far there has been no clear evidence that Savvidis has exerted pressure on Xanthi, however, what is clear is that with Xanthi in fourth place in the league and PAOK joint top, there is a chance that come the end of the season two companies owned by Savvidis could materially benefit from European club qualification.
Full PAOK FC media statement
“The ridiculous antics and fairytales coming out of Olympiacos and those behind the club continue.
A new story has appeared, that Ivan Savvidis also owns Xanthi FC (!!!).
In order to put a swift end to such nonsense, we can categorically say that Ivan Savvidis has absolutely nothing to do with Xanthi FC, nor do any of his relatives.
This matter will be followed up via legal channels to deal with these professional liars and slanderers which insult people, their intelligence, as well as clubs.
Logically, we expect the Deputy Minister of Sports to accept this latest fairytale as just another of Olympiacos‘ «spontaneous» actions.”
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