PAOK president Zagorakis resigns to appease angry fans

ATHENS (Reuters) - Former Greece captain Theodoros Zagarakis, who lifted the Euro 2004 trophy, resigned as president of PAOK Salonika on Thursday after fans protested against the sale of its best player to balance the indebted team’s books.

PAOK fans broke up seats in the stand and invaded the pitch after an unexpected 2-1 home defeat by Atromitos Athens on Wednesday.

“I step down at a difficult time so that love and unity return to the club,” said Zagorakis.

PAOK sold Portuguese midfielder Vieirinha to German club Vfl Wolfsburg earlier this month.

Selling off assets to service debts is an unpopular concept in Greece. Fearing a popular backlash, the country’s cash-strapped government has been reluctant to privatise state companies as it is supposed to under the terms of an EU/IMF bailout.

Not unlike Greece, PAOK is under pressure to reduce its debt or have its licence revoked, under new “financial fair play” rules by European soccer’s governing body UEFA.

Earlier this month UEFA fined PAOK and threatened them with a ban from European competition for breaching licensing regulations.

UEFA fined PAOK, who have reached the last 32 of the Europa League, 250,000 euros (203,029.53 pounds), of which 200,000 euros is suspended for a probationary period of three years.

Reporting by Harry Papachristou