CYPRUS: Wealthy tycoon not discouraged by Omonia’s poor season

Omonia Nicosia’s New York-based Cypriot investor Stavros Papastavrou is not discouraged by a disappointing first season since taking over, vowing to keep to his long-term plan to revive the glory days of a sleeping giant.

As the team finished sixth behind Nea Salamina with just one game remaining until the end of the season, the players did not only fail to meet the fans expectations but associated their names with the club’s worst showing in 60 years.

The club also failed to achieve the minimum goal of qualifying for Europe next year, which means that Omonia will not have the chance to improve revenue ranging from Euros 500,000-Euros 2 mln, that would cover the club’s entire budget for an entire season.

On top of losing out on European income, Omonia’s disastrous season meant that the team played in front of empty stands as club merchandise gathered dust on the shelves.

However, Papastavrou is determined to turn things around.

At the beginning of the season, Omonia FC’s wealthy owner was reportedly planning to inject some EUR 6 mln, he admitted in a press conference last week that We have spent a lot more than initially planned but he avoided giving a specific figure.

Failed season

Talking to the Financial Mirror, Omonia’s communication officer, Andreas Demetriou, extending Papastavrou’s and the club’s apologies to fans, said that the management team will need more time to fix mistakes made by the club.

He said the club has every reason to feel confident about the future as it is set on the right course for the years to come.

We do not consider that the season was entirely wasted, as the club has gained on a number of levels, said Demetriou.

He said the club had failed to build a competitive team due to the lack of time.

Papastavrou took over the club in June last year and had just one month to bring in coaches and players at a period when the team needed to be built almost from scratch, said Demetriou.

He added that the lack of time combined with a wrong choice of technical director who had misconceptions over the standard of Cypriot football recommended players that did not meet the club’s expectations.

The club has acknowledged its mistakes and has now changed its organisational model, recruiting a sporting director who will be working with a scouting team, said Demetriou.

Omonia has hired Neophytos Larkou as their sporting director and Simos Tarapoulouzes to head the scouting team.

Larkou is remembered for winning the FA Cup with Omonia and is considered to be one of the country’s best football coaches with a good eye for talent.

He was responsible for bringing in players that proved to be assets for the club like Nuno Asis, a former Portuguese international.

The year was not a complete failure, as apart from setting up a healthy team with financial credibility, Omonia was also able to promote good young players to the first team like Marinos Tzonis. The 17-year-old midfielder was one of the team’s best players this season, with two more youngsters making their debuts, said Demetriou.

He said that this was partly due to the investment Papastavrou has made in the club’s academy and infrastructure.

Reasons to be optimistic

Asked why Omonia fans should be optimistic about the future, Demetriou said that the team is now working with people who are familiar with the Cypriot league and Omonia’s history and style of football.

Larkou and Tarapoulouzes are familiar with Omonia’s history and DNA and we believe that they have the know-how to rebuild the team.

Demetriou said that the scouting team has more time to evaluate players, with decisions being taken collectively, not just by a technical director who may not be entirely familiar with the local league’s level and peculiarities.

The scouting department, together with the coach and the technical manager, have meetings, exchange views and decide on the next steps. If at the end there is a dispute about a player coming or leaving, then the administration will take over and make the decision.

Demetriou said that plans for upgrades to the team’s training centre in Yeri have been approved by the town planning authorities. The club plans to build a modern training ground with all the necessary facilities costing around EUR 2 mln.

Papastavrou is far from being discouraged from the recent failure. His investment plan includes building a stadium for the team, said Demetriou.

He is personally handling efforts to locate and buy land in Nicosia on which a modern stadium can be built.

Papastavrou announced that he was in negotiations with the Bank of Cyprus to buy back land in the Hallepianes area, on the outskirts of Nicosia, which had been repossessed by the bank.

Papastavrou told the Financial Mirror that Bank of Cyprus was not interested in a variety of proposals he had made, noting that no specific amount was mentioned.

Sources close to the bank say that Papastavrou did make a specific offer which they found significantly lower than the asking price said to be in the millions and therefore rejected it.

However, Papastavrou has located 3-4 alternative locations.

Once we buy the land, the plan is to have the stadium built in 4 to 5 years, with a significant amount of money being invested as one can imagine.

Demetriou said that a club debt of around EUR 9 mln taken on by Papastavrou is being paid off as agreed with creditors.

Papastavrou is also looking into ways of reducing the team’s expenses while pressing for better commercial deals for the club.

Omonia’s owner has been pressing for a better deal for the club’s TV rights as he feels that the contract with Primetel is not doing them justice.

He said Omonia is receiving significantly less than other teams of the same or even lower calibre. Omonia had decided to unilaterally terminate the contract but was given the red light by a court decision.

Papastavrou is also pressing for a better deal with the owners of Nicosia’s GSP stadium.

Omonia is in negotiations with GSP but has also put in a request to the Cyprus Sports Organisation, to use the Makarios stadium in Engomi for the upcoming season.

Stavros Papastavrou has a long-term plan to which he is committed and is not backing out. His immediate goal is for the team to qualify for European competition via the league position or the cup, and in the long run, build a team for which Omonia supporters can once again be proud of, said Demetriou.

Source: The Financial Mirror