Alki’s football history came to an end this week with the Larnaca team forced into bankruptcy following years of mismanagement.
The Larnaca club has become the second former first division club since 2011 to go under following the folding of 2009 Cyprus Coca-Cola Cup winners APOP Kinyras/Peyias.
And much like their Paphos counterparts, Alki’s misfortune has been put down to over-spending and poor management in the past. Drowning in debt, the club’s football department was forced to close down on Tuesday night, subsequently ending the football team just one month after its 66th anniversary.
Alki are said to owe €2million on former player salaries alone while other debts – also said to be in the millions – include state dues such as VAT, social insurance and inland revenue, as well as to travel agencies and hotels.
In fact, it has been reported by one source at the club that the entire earnings for each of Alki’s games this season have been pocketed by three former players that they still owe money to.
In a letter sent to the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) on Tuesday night, the club confirmed that it could no longer continue operating its football team.
“Alki, in a letter sent to the executive committee, announces that it is withdrawing from the league and, in effect, from the Cyprus Football Association”, read an announcement on the CFA’s official website.
Speaking to Super Sport FM yesterday, Alki Vice Chairman Fivos Onisiforou said the entire club was paying for the mistakes of those in charge in the recent past.
“Not even in our worst dreams did we expect such a thing to happen”, he said. “The debts of the last decade have forced us to close down even before FIFA got the chance to do so. There is no way out for us. The constant deductions and sanctions have given the club no hope to survive. The football department has effectively been on life support for a while now.
“The bad decisions, poor management and the fact that we all thought we would turn Alki into Barcelona drove us to where we are today. When in the hands of a few and not many, this is what happens.”
The clubs problems began to spiral out of control, first when former chairman Nicos Lillis struggled to continue funding the team’s high wage bill and mountainous debts and then he was subsequently arrested and charged in the ongoing Dromolaxia land fraud scandal. The charges were later dropped in exchange for his witness testimony in the trial.
Onisiforou refused to lay the entire blame at the feet of Larnaca businessman Lillis saying that things had already spiralled out of control at the club before he took over the chairmanship.
“Nicos Lillis has offered a lot to the team. Two years ago, everybody had jumped on the bandwagon with him. I had been telling him that we were building on sand but he was convinced the team was on the right track. Of course, he is also accountable for what happened but the mistakes began when [former company] Marathon took over operations. They had almost bankrupted the club back then.
“Then [former chairman] Mimis Fantousis came and helped steady the ship before Lillis took over with everybody embracing his appointment with open arms. Then things began to go downhill. It was almost like an out of control train that had managed to sweep along Alki. The decisions were being made by those holding the money.”
Despite the club not being able to front a football team, Onisiforou did say that club would remain.
“The club Alki has not been dissolved. We may enter into other sports such as basketball, volleyball and handball to try and keep the club alive.”
Two seasons ago, Paphos club APOP Kinyras/Peyas were forced into administration under huge debts, just two years after winning the Cyprus Coca-Cola Cup for the first time in their history.
Other clubs in financial disarray include AEP and Olympiakos Nicosia while first division giants Omonia and Anorthosis Famagusta are hopeful they will pull through and avoid bankruptcy despite owing a combined €30 million to former players and the taxman.
Several clubs had attempted unsuccessfully to form an alliance with Alki including first division highflyers Ermis Aradippou.
Back in March, Ermis chairman Loucas Fanieros had suggested to the club to join forces and emerge next season as ‘Ermis Athanati’- Athanati (Immortals) being Alki’s nickname – but the offer was turned down with club officials said to be unhappy that the name Alki would not be included in the club’s new name.
Other discussions to fall through included ones with Aspis Pyla, Omonia Oroklini and Spartakos Kitiou.