Soccer-Greece's Super League must build on 'dream season', says league chief


Soccer Football - Europa Conference League - Final - Fiorentina Training - Agia Sophia Stadium, Nea Filadelfeia, Greece - May 28, 2024 Fiorentina's Dodo with Maxime Lopez during training REUTERS/Louisa Gouliamaki

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's Super League must build on a successful season that included a 15-year attendance record, its head said on Tuesday as the country prepares to watch a Greek club play in a European final for the first time in more than half a century.

Olympiakos take on Fiorentina in the Europa Conference league final in Athens on Wednesday, in what will be Greece's second hosting of a European final this season following the Super Cup last August between Manchester City and Sevilla.

"We have to say that it was a dream season for the league on an operational and sporting level," Super League President Minas Lysandrou told Reuters in an interview.

"It was a season that started with a European final, the Super Cup at Olympiakos’ Karaiskakis stadium, a very successful event, and it ends with the Europa Conference league final at AEK Athens’ stadium."

The last time a Greek club reached a European final was in 1971 when Panathinaikos lost to Ajax Amsterdam in the European Cup final.

"This season, from an operational and sporting standpoint, must form the basis to build on for the future, with small and solid steps."

Lysandrou said the Super League was also successful in the youth league which it runs, with Olympiakos crowned European champions after beating AC Milan to win the UEFA Youth League.

It has, however, not all been smooth sailing this season, with the government banning fans from football matches for two months after the death of a police officer following clashes with fans at a volleyball match in December.

Fan trouble has been a continuing problem for the sport in Greece and new measures including high-tech cameras at all stadiums and a fully electronic ticketing system will be in place for next season in an effort to limit the problem.

RISING ATTENDANCE

Despite 42 matches played behind closed doors this season the league posted its best attendance figures in some 15 years with an average of 7,683 spectators per game.

The Super League title also enjoyed a nail-biting finish with its playoff format and with four teams still fighting for the league crown until the penultimate matchday.

PAOK won the title on the final matchday with a goal deep in second-half stoppage time in the closest finish in years.

The playoff format, Lysandrou said, would also benefit Greek teams in the revamped European competitions next season which will switch to a league phase with eight teams from a group stage with four.

"We organised a successful season. Three teams with over 80 goals each and we had almost three goals per game in 240 matches," Lysandrou said.

Greek clubs also had their best European runs in years. Aside from Olympiakos reaching the final, PAOK got to the Europa Conference League quarter-finals, helping Greece rise in this season's association club coefficient and move into the top 10.

"The competitiveness, the speed and power of the league, the improved conditions, have given the teams this extra power and boost to succeed," Lysandrou said. "It has led to better results and deeper runs in European competitions."

With security tight and several thousand police officers deployed for Wednesday's final - with Olympiakos set to play in their domestic league rivals' stadium - Lysandrou will be hoping the final goes off without a hitch.

"We want to use the momentum to develop an environment not only for those watching the league but also for strategic investors. This opportunity must not be lost," Lysandrou said.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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