Greek Football: From the first steps to the era of PRO-PO
On the left: A postcard from Athens of 1906 illustrating young boys playing football in a vacant lot. The uniform appearance of the boys indicates that the teams are organized.On the right: A commemorative photo of the 1920's with provincial football players and notable persons. Bets for the winner had already a major role in football
Greeks are starting to being interested in football after the Unofficial Olympic Games of 1906, after which the Greek Football Team won the third place. As a sport was officially recognized by the Hellenic Amateur Athletic Association in 1910, while in 1919, football became autonomous by creating the union of Football Clubs of Athens and Piraeus, which was renamed after a year as Greek Football Union.
The first systems of Betting Forecast
On the left:Players of Olypiacos and Panathinaikos with the Referee in 1930. In the Middle: The front page of a Sports' newspaper in 193., where it was cited the forthcoming match between Olypiacos – Panathinaikos.The newspaper organizes a Betting Competition, where participants have to send their prognostics for the game(Coupon on the left) 27 years before the foundation of OPAP and the establishment of PRO-PO.
Various betting forecast systems were developed unofficially, by the sports fans. From time to time more private operators joined, noticing the general interest and wanting to take advantage of the profits.
Establishment of the General Secretariat of Sports
Since the establishment of OPAP and until the first Draw of PRO-PO many tests were conducted, so that everything operates flawlessly. On the left:The General Secretary of Sports and OPAP's Chief George Vichos with his colleagues. On the right:Snapshots from the test Draw (December 7th 1958)
In 1957 the General Secretariat of Sports was established and in 1958 OPAP was instituted and in 1959 the System of the National League in football was institutionalized, which will lead to fundamental changes in Greek sports. Aiming at the development of Greek Sports and therefore the fund-raising to finance infrastructure works, the idea of a Greek institution matures, which will run Football pools according to the European Standards.
Establishment of OPAP
On the left: The Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, with the consent of the opposition party of George Papandreou and Sophocles Venizelos, proceeded in 1958 to the establishment of OPAP. On the right:The Sports Advisory Council after a meeting (April 15th 1959)
The Royal Decree regarding: "Constitution of the Organization of Football Prognostics (OPAP)" , that was published in December 20th 1958, launched a new era for the Greek Sport life.
The same day, another Royal Decree titled "Operation of the Coupon of football prognostics" establishes PRO-PO. The 14 articles of this Decree specify in details the rules of the new game, the distribution of the profits, the composition of the coupons, the proclamation of the winners, the procedure for licensing agencies and the operation of them.
On the left: Front Page of a sports newspaper dedicated to the Beginning of the Championship in 1958. In the Middle: A sketch for the beginning of the Championship in Athens.On the right:the betting forecast for the 1st PRO-PO coupon (February 28th1959).
1959 was a very promising year for the Greek Football, since it was met with two significant events: the establishment of PRO-PO and the foundation of the system of national leagues in the football championships (starting with the beginning of the football championship 1959-1960).
The smooth functioning of PRO-PO demanded the regular conduct of the matches, which required improvements in the organization of the matches, less postponements and better arbitration. One of the major reasons for the establishment of the Greek Championship was the boost of Football but also the increase in its profits. The State, acting as a supporter of this effort, exempted from taxation the football teams and agreed to help financially both the institution and the teams, which would stem from the earnings of OPAP.
Τhe first OPAP Draws
The first and Historic PRO-PO Coupon (March 1st 1959). It has only 2 columns and 12 matches and costs 5 drachmas
The public response to PRO-PO was incredible and the newspapers of that time hosted extended reports and photos with people jostling in queues in order to play a coupon. "Black Market" tactics have been reported.
The first period of PRO-PO ended successfully in June 20th 1959, by introducing a new type of Coupon with 13 matches. Another upgrade in the coupon happened earlier in May with the addition of more columns (6 columns instead of 2).
It is worth mentioning that during the first period of running PRO-PO , the vast majority of the Coupons were not anonymous.
PRO-PO ads, dated back to the first years of PRO-PO: "The magic piece of paper that makes you rich!", "Luck is in the air!" and "Just a correct forecast and tomorrow you will be rich!"
As it is clear in the press of that time, the professional and targeted advertising of OPAP, contributes catalytically to the success of the first period of PRO-PO. The ads emphasize on the sports element and the "capability" of the player to combine and forecast, minimizing the "luck" factor, on the contrary to the state lotteries where the player had to be lucky.
On the left:The advertising Campaign of PRO-PO in a popular Greek Movie. On the Right: PRO-PO started to attract female population.One of the first women who won in PRO-PO.
Selection of the PRO-PO winning Coupons
The selection process of PRO-PO winning coupons by hand was a real adventure, and it required the participation of hundreds of temporary staff and exhausting working hours. The authenticity of the Coupon was identified by a security paper stamp that was attached by the Agents.
The selection of coupons by hand afflicted OPAP for many years, until the establishment of central computerized system.
OPAP finances Infrastructure Projects
Above:"Palais des Sports" in Salonika. Down and on the Left: Photo of the Opening of the Panathinaikos Football stadium (8/11/1958). Down and on the Right: part of the Athletic facilities in Ayios Kosmas which have been financed mainly by PRO-PO's earnings. Until the establishment of OPAP the infrastructure works were few.
The Consolidation of PRO-PO
On the left:Article in a newspaper in favor of OPAP. In the Middle: Advertisement in a newspaper, with the biggest winnings of PRO-PO. On the Right:The reverse side of a PRO-PO coupon referring to the World Cup matches.
During the period 1960-1967, OPAP, in the middle of socio-economic crisis in Greece, had to prove that it is able to operate properly, fairly and efficiently and combine its public nature along with the modern business concepts.
Significant Reforms in OPAP's operation
Various types of PRO-PO Coupons for various betting forecast systems
In 1964 OPAP started reforming PRO-PO which presented stability in earnings. The first reformation was the group systems following the worldwide trend, which were in the future (1966) categorized in 3 types.
- PRO-PO agencies were founded in about 70 cities, leading to the regional development of OPAP.
- OPAP-sponsored radio broadcasting of football matches begins bringing in increased advertising revenues.
- OPAP becomes member of the International Association of INTERTOTO
Continuous Development but also Brainstorming for OPAP
First half of the 1960s and OPAP is trying to expand its activities in football with a new game: "6 out of 36".
The most significant developments between1965-1967 are the following:
Third Category Winners
In March 1965 , OPAP introduces the Third Category winners of PRO-PO, which are the players that forecast 11 out of the total 13 matches ( until then the winners were those who got 12 or 13 out of 13.)
The new game 6 out of 36
It was about a game of forecasting 6 drawn matches out of the 36 matches of the Coupon.
Wider Changes and Improvements
In 1969, new systems were implemented in the selection of the coupons, which announce wider technological changes. Photos of the new triplicate coupon and related press release. On the right: The Draw Process.
By introducing the new coupons, there was a dramatic increase in the columns that could be played leading to great earnings for OPAP. The payout for the agents rises from 5% to 10%, which increases the demand of new agency licenses.
High- Record in Participations
In 1969 OPAP celebrates the ten years from its foundation. On this occasion PRO-PO offers great prizes, which were a dream come true for the average family. In the World Cup of 1970 OPAP tries to take advantage of the event, and tries to target the female population by offering cosmetics and furs.
The growth of OPAP and the popularization of PRO-Po during the period 1967-1974 has been impressive. As an example of this growth is the number of the agencies that over doubled. Specifically. The initial 900 agencies became 2000 operating only for OPAP, not having any extra operations. During the same period the gross profit showed rapid growth from 175,8 million drachmas, in 1966, to 274,5 millions in 1967 and to 1,3 billion in 1974.
Significant evolution in this period was the expansion of PRO-PO to Cyprus, in 1969.
During the period of 1974-1979 Greek Football started growing rapidly and the private initiative begins to play a major role. After the establishing the appropriate legal framework the football teams become football limited companies, while the football players are paid on the basis of fixed terms contracts.
From now on the Greek professional Football follows the international standards.
After the restoration of democracyin Greece, in 1974, the money from the proceedings of OPAP begin to be invested clearer, since the management is controlled legally and the parliament oversees and stops any mismanagement actions.
The period 1974-1981 was very creative for OPAP, since there was a sharp rise in every level of activity. It is characteristic that the number of agencies grew more and more every year all over Greece. Specifically from 2.060 in 1957 they reached 2.188 in 1976 and in 1981 they reached 2.952. The same year the gross profit almost multiplied by six, rising from 1.5 billion drachmas in 1975 to 7.3 billion in 1981.
In general, this period has been of the most productive ones in terms of advancing the sport infrastructure projects sponsored by OPAP, which was the financial supporter of the effort made by the government. Among others, OPAP constructed 400 football stadiums, 440sports arenas, 1.620 sports playgrounds, 250 fitness halls, 70 weight lifting halls, stands for a total of 120.000 seated spectators, 12 sailing and rowing facilities, 12 ski centers etc.
OPAP's Recent "football" Period
The eight –year period 1982-1990 could be characterized as the last OPAP's clearly "football period", meaning the period that its sole product was PRO-PO. After this period, LOTTO was established in 1990 and then other games were introduced, extending its activities, following the new needs that came up, which will lead to business reformations in 1999.
The 1980s OPAP kept sponsoring sports infrastructure projects, the number of the agencies grew, reaching almost 4.000 and finally the gross profits rose to 23,1 billion drachmas in 1986 and 53.3 billion drachmas in 1989.
OPAP at the service of Sports and Culture
An important change of this period was the succeeding in disconnecting OPAP from its unique relation to sports and start servicing the cultural development of the country.
During the period 1982-1990 various events that concern OPAP's operation assist its development, such as:
• In 1987, a law instituted by the Greek Government, initiated the preparation of 2 new games LOTTO and PROTO
• In 1989, OPAP becomes an associate member of the Association Europeenne des Lotteries et Lottos d' Etat [AELLE].
• In June 8th 1989, OPAP's central computerized system opens which enables the management of other gambling games, besides PRO-PO, and technologically modernizes the Organization.