Cypriot Football giants Omonia Nicosia was shocked to its foundations after the club’s investor Stavros Papastavrou announced his resignation, spreading uncertainty over the team’s future.
New York-based Papastavrou went live on Omonia FC TV on Thursday to announce his decision prompted by failed discussions with the club to tweak the existing management deal; he blamed insiders for sabotaging the deal.
“I wish to apologise to the thousands of Omonia fans for any disruptions caused in the past 18 months.
“Following long discussions which did not bear fruit, I have decided that it is in the best interest of everyone that I step down and leave the management of the company to the club,” said Papastavrou in a statement.
He tabled a proposal to the club to see the deal go from a 10+5+5-year agreement for the football team’s management to an open-ended ownership deal.
The new deal would have seen the club become a partner in the company, taking on 20% of shares.
However, while the club and Papastavrou announced they had agreed earlier this month, the Omonia Athletic Club president Marios Argyrides announced the deal was a no-go.
The deal-breaker clause was Papastavrou’s right to sell his share of the football company to anyone he wanted.
It was argued that the club feared a potential buyout by unfit investors or club enemies that would run the team into the ground.
Papastavrou argued that he was open to the club setting its own criteria on who could buy the company, but it failed to do so.
He said the deal needed to be altered, although it was against his principles to go back on an agreement because Cypriot football has become more competitive with the arrival of more investors in other teams.
“We have plans to build something great here with Omonia, but under the new circumstances, I need to feel secure over my investment,” said Papastavrou.
He added that the value of Cypriot football clubs is zero and that “the only way for a Cypriot club to gain value is to acquire assets such as a football stadium”.
Omonia FC’s former president said that the club would have had its own stadium within five years if the deal had gone through.
“Contracts for the land have already been signed, and the deal is done. However, under the new circumstances, the stadium will not be able to be built,” said Papastavrou.
Omonia’s sole investor said that if he were allowed to proceed with the new deal, he would raise the club’s value to €70 mln.
He said that for someone to buy Omonia FC at the moment, they would have to pay off the company’s €15-16 mln debt to himself.
The club’s flagging fortunes were revived after being taken over by millionaire Papastavrou in 2018.
Following a disappointing first year, Omonia was awarded the first spot in the 2019-2020 season, which was interrupted by the COVID pandemic.
The following year Omonia lifted the Championship trophy after ten years.
In the next two seasons, Omonia was crowned Cup holders in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 seasons.
In the five-year period under Papastavrou, Omonia Nicosia qualified twice to the Europa League group stage and once to the Europa Conference League.
The club’s recent successes come after a decade of failure to win the Cypriot league and financial difficulties, almost leading the historic club to bankruptcy in 2018.
He had then pledged to invest more than €30 mln.
Papastavrou made good on his word from day one, saving Omonia by directly injecting €1.5 mln, crucial to pass UEFA’s financial criteria, which the club could not have met otherwise.
He said he invested some €23-24 mln in the team.