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"Aris Football Club is at the moment a healthy and stable club"

Since 2018 Antonis Tsalouchidis is Executive Director of the Greek club Aris FC. In this interview he speaks about the effects of Covid-19 and the plans of the club despite the pandemic.

2010 finished second in the group stage of the Europe League. 2014 you played in the third league. Since 2018 you are back in the first tier. Pretty turbulent years…
Turbulent years indeed, especially for the fans of the club. When you see your favourite team to win Atletico Madrid home and away and qualifying in the Round of 32 of Europa League, you believe that your team is growing and becoming bigger (at all levels), however you don’t seize this opportunity and you bankrupt. In brief, this is what happened from 2010 to 2014.
In other words, the old club was relegated to the 2nd division on season 2013-2014 and because of its bankruptcy was put into liquidation status due to the failure of participating in the lowest professional league (2nd Division).
Besides, the team participated, under a new management, in Amateur League (3rd Division) of season 2014-15 but failed to be promoted in the lowest professional league (2nd Division).
As a result of this failure, Karypidis Bros took over the management of the club in August of 2015 and succeed to promote the club in the 2nd Division. Consequently, in August 2015 was established the new S.A. company, with major shareholders (89,95%) Karypidis Bros, who are the owners of ARIS Football Club until today.

You joined Aris in March 2018. What happened at the club since then, what projects did you force, and which developments could you finish?
I joined the club in March 2018. The club was about to return to the Greek Super League (1st Division) as it was among the top two teams in the ranking table (the first 2 teams were promoted to the 1st Division). I worked before with Karypidis during the seasons 2014-15 and 2015-16 when they were owners of Veria Football Club (Greek Super League club). Hence, the owners decided that the club needed employees with experience in the 1st Division, in order to help the club get organized even better than its glory days of 2010.
In summary, my colleagues and I, we work together in many projects in order to get the club well organized and developed during its return to the Greek Super League. Particularly, regarding the facilities and infrastructure, the club installed Hybrid Grass system and LED light System in the Stadium ‘Kleanthis Vikelidis’, renovated both the interiors (dressing rooms, medical room, VIP Suites, Restaurants, Catering points, First-aid rooms) and the exteriors (VIP area  seating, Benches for teams and referees in field of play, Turnstiles with RFID System).In parallel , the Training Centre was fully renovated (Gym, Dressing Room, Restaurant, Rehabilitation/Medical Room, Meeting room). In addition, the club hired the appropriate employees in each department (Management, Marketing, Financial, Scouting, Commercial, Medical, Youth and Venue) in order to be organized in accordance to the UEFA/FIFA standards.

How is the club currently doing now related to the Covid pandemic?
We have tried hard, as club, to be secured from the virus but unfortunately we faced covid-19 cases in October when 8 players and 3 members of our staff were infected. Thus, our away match of 6th match-day against AEL was postponed for the beginning of December. Afterwards, we took extra measures (in accordance with the Health and Hygiene Protocol) in club’s everyday life in order to avoid extra infections among our staff and we have succeeded until today.

You have a pretty high average attendance in the stadium. How important are matchday revenues for Aris, what share of the overall revenues makes it up?
Our fans are very close to the team and the atmosphere that they create in every match is really sensational. Particularly, we were in the 4th position in total tickets of seasons 2018/19 and 2019/20. These revenues are very important for the club, and cover between 25 and 30% of the yearly revenues.

What is the current situation regarding stadium attendance in Greece?
Currently, the matches are held with the limited attendance of 350 persons including football players, coaches, referees, journalists, photographers, broadcasting staff, police etc. To illustrate this, only 20 persons (10 for each club, including President, CEO and Board Members) are allowed to attend each match.

Are you able to cover the losses of the attendance regulations with other sources of income?
The club has already prepared a business plan in order to be sustainable and healthy during covid19 pandemic. The decrease in revenues was balanced by the cut of the players’ contracts for the season 2019/20 and the transfer of our star player Ioannis Fetfatzidis to Qatari club, Al-Khor. The merchandising revenues were increased by 30% and the sponsorships revenues increased by 15% and covered also a part of the losses in revenues from the lack of attendees.

Basically, what is the most important revenue stream for the club?
The most important source of revenues for most of the Greek clubs is the TV rights. Each club has its own contract with a broadcaster since season 2018/19. Nevertheless, during the covid19 pandemic, Super League clubs started negotiations about the possibility of a common agreement with a subscription network company for the whole league’s TV rights. Until the end of the season, there will be progress on this matter and we hope the “product” to become attractive as it was in the past.

How is Aris structured, is there an investor?
Karypidis Bros are the major shareholders (89,95%) and have invested to the club more than 10 million € from 2015 till today.

Is Aris currently a financially stable and healthy club?
Aris Football Club, at the moment is a healthy and stable club and in case that the attendees will return to the stadiums, the club will be able to apply in sustainable development practices, which will allow us to develop a competitive advantage over the other “competitors”.

Are you currently more in the “survival mode” or is still possible for Aris to work on new projects, for example to accelerate the digitization?
Despite that the covid-19 crisis affect all clubs from March until today, Aris Football Club is currently working on many new projects. To give an illustration of what we are planning, there are the projects of a new led advertising system, a new led giant screen, a new e-shop for merchandising and e-commerce platform, the creation of fan crypto-currency, the creation of youth academy network and some others that, at the moment, are in the initial stage. Moreover, we have recently finalized our project of new ticketing platform that help a fan to buy more easily the match  ticket and allow the club to build, using CRM tools, personal connections with the fans. Thus, this tool helps us to identify their needs and requirements and provide them with personalized services. In conclusion, most of those tools requires the return of the people to normality, but we have already planned the projects in order to be ready, directly after our return to normality.

A few years ago, there had been talks about a new stadium for Aris. Is that still or again a topic today?
In June 2019 the owners revealed their plans about a new stadium. The cost of the new stadium will be around 50 million Euros.  As you can see in the computer-generated image of what the new ‘Kleanthis Vikelidis‘ will look like. Therefore, in the first phase, the bureaucratic stage will have to be completed and then two buildings will be "erected" at the corners of gates "1" and "3" at a height of 26 meters. Accordingly, the plan includes the construction of suites at gate 2, where the clubs’ signs are now, which means that the capacity of the gate will not be reduced. For this reason, Karypidis Bros were deeply involved with this project regarding the issue of funding. In short, we estimate that, when we return to normality, we need 1 year for the bureaucratic part to be completed.

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