ATHENS Nov 23 (Reuters) - The Greek Football Federation (EPO) on Friday strongly rebuked local media reports that accused the organisation of becoming a burden for the crisis-stricken country's taxpayers.
Several news outlets published articles this week reporting that while Greek sport is suffering from the crippling effects of the economic crisis, the federation remains largely untouched and enjoys the benefits of money from state-run betting company OPAP.
"The Football Federation, which is the supreme body of the game, is a sports association, and a legal entity which is organized, managed and operated according to specific state statutes and regulations; it is in no shape or form under the system of public services or utilities," the EPO responded in a statement published on its official website (www.epo.gr).
"This legal form allows it to move freely in the market to obtain sponsorships, television rights and generally to operate as a private enterprise...it should be understood that the organisation does not receive even one euro from the state's budget for sport.
The statement went on to blast "various people in the media and clueless protagonists" for saying Greek football was funded by taxpayers' money.
"The clubs get money from OPAP only in return for sponsorship and advertising contracts, very much in the same context in which minimum grants are given to the Football League Association and members of EPO for the needs of the infrastructure of local leagues and tournaments.
"References to the internal workings of the federation then must be based on the actual nature of the organisation; otherwise this constitutes defamation of the character and the name of football."
The organisation has also been criticised by Panathinaikos president Giannis Alafouzos, who claims its decision to approve the restructuring of the Super League midway through the season represents a violation of rules.
The Super League decided earlier this month to change the number of teams to be relegated from three to two, while increasing the number of the top flight teams next year from 16 to 18.
Panathinaikos, one of the oldest and most successful clubs in Greek football, appealed the decision via EPO's court of arbitration earlier this month but it was rejected. (Editing by Justin Palmer)