Panathinaikos banned from Europe for three years by UEFA

Panathinaikos banned from Europe for three years by UEFA

Paris (AFP) – Greek giants Panathinaikos have been banned from European competition for three years by UEFA for failing to pay their debts, European football’s governing body announced on Tuesday.

The club were handed a suspended sentence in December and given until March 1 to settle their unpaid bills, but failed to do so and have been fined 100,000 euros ($122,398), having also been ordered to pay the same amount in December.

They appeared unlikely to qualify for Europe next season anyway, though, sitting seventh in the Greek top flight.

Panathinaikos players went on strike earlier this month over unpaid wages, and had also been hit with a three-point deduction by the Greek Super League over outstanding debts owed to former defender Jens Wemmer.

Owner Yiannis Alafouzos agreed to sell the club to an Asian investment group on Saturday.

The 20-time Greek champions have a rich heritage in Europe, having lost the 1971 European Cup final to Ajax before semi-final defeats by Liverpool in 1985 and Ajax in 1996.

Earlier this season, they were beaten by Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League playoff round.

Greek football has been plagued by controversy this season, with several high-profile incidents.

PAOK president Ivan Savvidis was banned for three years last month after invading the pitch with a gun during a game against title rivals AEK Athens, while former Olympiakos coach Oscar Garcia was hit by a cashier’s roll thrown by a PAOK fan during a match in February.

The Spaniard later resigned after Olympiakos president Evangelos Marinakis fined and exiled first-team players over perceived bad results.