The Selling Mechanism of the Television Rights in Greek Professional Soccer

### Abstract

Television rights in professional soccer was, and perhaps still is, the most important and vital source of revenue for professional soccer clubs in most European countries. Much conversation and legislation was made to discuss, agree upon, and regulate the way the right to broadcast a game is sold to the TV stations and how this income is distributed to the clubs. This study examines the way this selling mechanism works in Greece. The study is carried out with questionnaires, given to at least one member of the higher management of the 34 professional soccer clubs (1st and 2nd division) whose games are on TV. According to the results, club managers think that collective selling is the optimal theoretical model to sell their TV rights, but the way it is implemented is not the optimal one, leading to lower results in income and stadium attendance than the ones anticipated by the managers. Also the Greek Soccer Federation must exploit the TV rights of the games. Moreover the participants believe TV viewers think of the soccer championship as an entity and not as a sum of certain games. Finally they believe TV viewers must pay a subscription to watch the games and that it must not be a free of charge service.

**Key words:** Television rights, Soccer Club Manager, Collecting selling, Individual Selling

### Introduction

While in Greece, studies in the area of professional soccer clubs’ TV rights are very rare, possibly even do not exist, in Europe and especially in the soccer-wise developed countries such as England, Germany, France and Italy. Various studies examined the professional soccer TV rights selling mechanism. Many studies use the USA sports TV market as an example and comparison (since modern sports marketing as we know it was born and developed in the US, and still influences the rest of the world.)

Since soccer became professional and commercialized, the selling of the TV rights was put on the table for discussion. The TV scene in all European countries became free starting from the 1980s until today, and that had much to do with the sharp increase in the professional soccer TV rights value in almost every European country and especially the most developed soccer-wise, such as England, Italy, France and Germany.

Tonazzi (4) points out the differentiality of the soccer market, arguing that while in other business areas a cooperation of the clubs would be characterized as an anticompetitive cartel, in soccer the product can be sold only if the clubs cooperate and offer a joint product. Otherwise, if clubs sell their rights separately, then it is certain that the most popular clubs will gain more income, which would be translated to higher quality players and an unbalanced championship.

Authors argue that if the TV income is lower, then the big clubs most probably will try to separate themselves from the clubs’ league in order to make more money in the free market, selling their TV rights by themselves (13). One probable way to achieve this is the use of digital TV, where they could create tailor-made programs for their fans.

In Europe, England is a leading soccer country and the developments in its televised soccer scene are a case to study, when one wants to define the optimal rights selling mechanism. Poli (14) studies the Italian professional soccer TV rights status in depth.

In Greece, until the early 1990s, EPAE (the governing body of the Greek soccer championship) used to sell the TV rights of the Greek soccer championship collectively to ERT, the public broadcaster. In the early 1990s, private TV stations started bidding to acquire the TV rights of the Greek soccer championship, but it was again the public broadcaster ERT that gained the collective TV rights of the Greek championship. From 1995 to the present, Supersport, a sports channel with subscription fee, has had the TV rights to the majority of the clubs (in 2001 Alpha Digital – a digital platform – acquired the rights for the majority of the clubs, and in the last 3 years ERT has obtained the rights to Olympiakos FC and Xanthi FC). The redistribution system of TV income to the participating clubs is based upon factors like the position of the club in the standings, its market value, its stadium attendance and fans in general, etc.

The purpose of this study is to show that the current TV rights selling model mechanism, used by the Greek professional soccer clubs, is not the optimal one, and revenues and stadium attendance of the clubs could be higher if the way the clubs sell their TV rights were changed. The authors’ hypothesis is that collective selling of TV rights of the Greek professional soccer clubs, based on performance and other criteria (fan base, stadium attendance, etc.), doesn’t maximize the clubs’ revenues or their stadium attendance. The need has been observed for a scientific approach and examination of the TV rights selling mechanism, so that the selling does not only lead to short-term monetary profit, but also to larger, long-term, welfare-wise profits for the parties involved.

### Methods

#### Description of questionnaire – data

For the data collection a questionnaire was used. The questionnaire used in the present research mainly included closed-type questions. The questionnaire was divided in fourteen parts. The first part posed general questions to the participants about the club in which they worked, and the general conditions of Greek professional soccer. Also in this first part, questions about Greek professional soccer’s problems were asked of the club managers. The second part consisted of questions about the ownership of the clubs’ home game TV rights. In the third part the participants were asked about the “product” and the way TV viewers and fans in general view championship and individual games. The fourth part dealt with the supply and demand of the “product”, and the number of games with TV coverage. In the fifth part, the club managers were asked about the cost and profit of the selling mechanism, while in the sixth part the issue was the competitive balance of the championship. The seventh part was a clubs’ talent investment topic and the eighth part questioned the number of club – members in the professional soccer league. In the ninth part, the club managers were asked about the factors influencing the clubs’ decision on choice of selling mechanism (such as stadium attendance, TV households accessibility etc.) The tenth part consisted of questions about the clubs’ TV revenues and their distribution to the clubs, while the eleventh part dealt with regulations and competition policies. Finally in the last part the club managers’ answered social-demographic data questions.

The sample for this study was 65 club managers of the 34 Greek professional soccer clubs who were associated with the clubs during the 2009–2010 season, in the first two divisions (Superleague and Second Division), that are covered by the Greek TV station. The number of clubs of interest was limited, while accordingly limited was the number of the club managers who could answer the questions in this study. Specifically, one to two, or at most three, managers in each club could help in achieving the goal of this study. The number of managers who participated can be easily characterized as quite a large number for this type of study.

#### Statistical Analysis Conducted

Besides the descriptive analysis of single items from the questionnaire, the qualitative variables of the questionnaire were additionally analyzed by utilizing suitable statistical methodology – such as principal components analysis (PCA), and cluster analysis – in order to identify relevant sets of variables and establish a series of factorial (latent) variables that summarize and explain a large proportion of the variability of the observed variables, and logistic regression analysis for attempting to identify the most significant factors for affecting managers’ preferences toward one of the two selling mechanisms.

The data analysis was carried out with the help of the statistical package SPSS v 15.0.

Moreover, in order to see if natural and useful clusters of data existed, the technique of hierarchical cluster analysis was used alternatively. Essentially, starting with each observation being a group by itself, in every step, the observations that have the smaller distance were united, so that the data of a formulated cluster would be part of the elements of the hierarchically next cluster(7,8). This can work not only toward the clustering of observations, but toward the clustering of variables too (7). Since the analysis unit is variable, the distance or similarity measures for all variables’ pairs were calculated. As a distance unit, the Euclidean distance was used and as a method of combination of the observations in clusters the method of “furthest neighbor” was used. According to this method, as a distance between two clusters the one between furthest points was taken (2).

To identify those factors that influence statistically significantly the opinion of Greek managers on the most suitable – according to their own perspective – Greek professional soccer TV rights selling mechanism, a logistic regression model was chosen to fit the data collected (1).

### Results

Analytically, the club managers evaluated the TV rights collective exploitation model to be “very good” (1.5%), “good” (33.8%), “medium” (60%), and “bad” (4.6%). The club members’ answers to the question, “if the TV rights individual exploitation increase the home game stadium attendance” were, “yes” (73.8%), and “no” (26.2%). The club members’ answers to the question, “if the TV rights individual exploitation increase clubs’ income from the TV rights selling” were, “yes” (58.5%) and “no” (41.5%). The club members’ answers to the question, “to whom belong the home games TV rights” were, “to the home team” (3.1%), “to both teams” (6.2%), “to the clubs’ league” (47.7%), and, “to the country’s soccer federation” (43.1%). To the question, “if the TV viewers see the championship as a single product or a sum of independent games” the club managers answered, “as a single product” (80%) and “as a sum of independent games” (20%). To the question, “if the sport product must be treated like a public product and offered free of charge or the viewer to be charged with a subscription fee or other kind of payment” the club managers answered, “like a public product and offered free of charge” (41.5%) and “to be charged with a subscription fee or other kind of payment” (58.5%). To the question, “if the maximization of the clubs’ total profits leads to the maximization of each individual club’s profits” the club managers answered, “a little” (32.3%), “medium” (58.5%), “enough” (4.6%), “much” (1.5%) “very much” (3.1%). To the question, “if the current TV rights selling model has increased, decreased or has not changed the stadium attendance” the club managers answered, “has increased” (36.9%), and “has not changed” (63.1%). Finally, in the instance of the question, “if with the current TV rights selling model of your home games, your revenues, comparing to their real values are higher, equal or lower” the club managers answered, “higher” (24.6%), “equal” (67.7%), and “lower” (7.7%).

In regard to the major problems from which Greek soccer is currently suffering (the means of the sample’s responses on the ten questions range between 2.66 and 3.03), the managers ranked as the most significant problem the lack of suitable training grounds. (see Table 1) The next highest mean value, 3, occured in the response to the question that mentioned the indifference of the State. Lower values showed that the managers considered to be problems the lack of quality of the foreign soccer players and the involvement in the club management of people with no experience in this professional area (2.98), the bad soccer stadiums condition (2.97), the lack of qualitative academies soccer players and the fans’ violence (2.94), with 2.8 the unreliability of the games’ (referees) outcomes (2.8), and the clubs’ bad finances (2.75). The least important problem was regarded by the managers to be the problem of competition with other sports, with a mean value of 2.66, indicating thus the domination of soccer in the Greek sports scene.

#### PCA Analysis

The data that resulted from the items on the questionnaires related to the most significant problems in Greek soccer were given to the club managers of the professional clubs of the Superleague and Second Division in Greece, and then was processed with the main principal components method. The proportion of the variance of each initial variable that the constructed PCA is explained in Table 2. The four principal components comprise 64.3% of the total variability of the ten input variables. For the interpretation of factors, the rotation of factors was conducted. More specifically, the orthogonal transformation process called varimax was used. The objective was to simplify the factor structure and to make the results more meaningful.

The first component showed “the negative attitude of the State and the bodies of professional soccer (Greek Soccer Federation – Referees) toward the ongoing problems of professional soccer (reliability – financial problems)”. The second component showed “the negative correlation that develops between the basic facilities infrastructure of professional soccer and the violence in the Greek stadiums with the foreign players’ quality that professional soccer attracts”. The third component showed “the negative correlation that develops between the professional soccer stadiums’ conditions and the quality of the players coming from the academies into professional soccer”. The fourth component showed “the negative correlation between the competition with other sports and involvement of people with no professional experience in this area in clubs’ management”. (see Figure 1)

#### Cluster Analysis

With the hierarchical analysis in clusters for the problems of Greek soccer, two clusters with the following identities “business type soccer problems” and “soccer problems – involvement of people with no professional experience in this area in clubs’ management” were created. The first cluster mostly dealt with the problems most fans think professional soccer has, and are the main reason of low stadium attendance, low TV viewership, low spending in clubs’ merchandising, etc. Also included was “the competition of the sports”, showing that unhappy fans (mostly those who were not dedicated to the sport) may turn to other sports viewing and attending. The second cluster had more to do with the “structural” problems of professional soccer; that is, the lack of programming and infrastructure in the academies and the training grounds, which leads to the lack of well-trained young and professional players, leading to a low level spectacle on the field. This is a major reason for the fans to turn their backs on their clubs, and on professional soccer in general.

#### Logistic Regression Model

To identify those factors that offer a statistically significantly influence on the opinion of Greek managers on the most suitable – according to their own perspective – Greek professional soccer TV rights selling mechanism, we have chosen to fit a logistic regression model to the data collected. A full description of the predictor variables can be found in Table 4.

A positive evaluation on behalf of the managers of the collective selling mechanism (i.e., “good-very good” category) was designated as predicted group for the dependent variable, while as a reference category the negative category of answers “very bad-medium” was chosen. The maximum likelihood method was used for the adaptation of the final model and the calculation of beta coefficients. In Table 3, the values of the coefficients of independent variables in the logistic model are shown, accompanied by the statistical significance of coefficients, derived by the Wald type test. In the last column, the odds ratios of the model are presented for each of the predictor variables separately.

It follows from an inspection of Table 3that the accessibility of the TV households to the broadcast of the games is a significant factor for the preference of collective selling mechanism, at a 10% level of significance, since those who reported an increase in the accessibility of the households seemed to have lower probability to choose the collective selling mechanism than those reporting the broadcast of games to be left unchanged (beta=-1.623, p-value=0.053<0.1). Indeed, as suggested by the model, the probabilities (odds) of a manager being in a club that had increased the broadcast of its games to TV households to be in favor of the collective selling was decreased by a factor of 0.197, when compared with managers who reported that accessibility was left unchanged. Accordingly, managers whose teams had increased stadium attendance with the utilization of collective selling were less in favor of the current mechanism, when compared with managers whose teams had left its stadium attendance unchanged (beta=-1.537, p-value=0.054<0.1). The most significant factor, however, in predicting the dependent variable in the final model is the club’s revenues. As indicated by the model, the probabilities (odds) of a manager to be in favor of the collective selling model, being in a club that had decreased or left unchanged its revenues with the utilization of the collective selling mechanism was decreased by a factor of 58.997 and 123.304, respectively, when compared with managers who reported that the club’s revenues had increased. (beta=4.077, p-value=0.02

### Discussion

In the study only 34.3% of the club managers considered the current collective selling model to be good or very good. The same clubs’ managers, in the question “whether TV rights individual exploitation increases the home game stadium attendance” answered yes with a rate of 73.8%; and in the question “whether TV rights individual exploitation increased clubs’ income from the TV rights selling” answered yes with 58.5%. This clearly shows a preference of the managers for their clubs to individually exploit their TV rights. As the study showed, managers who were mostly in favor of the individual selling mechanism were those whose teams has been underestimated in revenues compared to their real values. Unexpectedly, these managers believed that the utilization of the current selling mechanism, i.e. collective selling TV rights mechanism, had increased their stadium attendance, and had increased the accessibility of TV households to their games.

Statistical analysis has also shown that the managers who were held a positive stance toward a collective selling model accordingly stated that:

* their TV income with the current collective selling model was the same compared to their real TV rights’ value (73.8%);
* the maximization of total profits of the clubs did not maximize the profits of each club separately (92.9%);
* the less-popular/strong clubs would not get less money with individual selling of their rights (64.3%);
* the financial strengthening of the less-wealthy and -popular clubs, through an even distribution system of TV income, was not among the primary reasons to follow a collective selling model (66.7%);
* the current selling model did not change their team’s stadium attendance (69%);
* the current selling model did not change their club’s financial strength or its ability to acquire talented players (95.2%);
* income distribution based on the clubs’ performances did not change the investment level of the “weak” clubs in talent (66.7%);
* they had considered the possibility of increasing TV ratings of their games in the rights selling procedure (78.6%); and that they
* thought that the accessibility of TV households in games coverage was an important factor in their decision making (85.7%).

Greek soccer experts validated the authors’ hypothesis that the current collective selling model using the performance-based income redistribution system didn’t maximize the clubs’ revenues or stadium attendance.

In past literature, the collective selling mechanism was thought to be the optimal way of exploiting TV rights of the professional soccer championship games in almost all the famous and strong European championships, such as the Premier League in England, Budesliga in Germany, and Division 1 in France. Only in the Italian championship, Lega Calcio, were the TV rights exploited individually, due to the large discrepancies in the predicted and actual revenues of the big and traditional soccer clubs, compared to the small professional clubs (4,9,14,16).

This study shows that the optimal way to exploit Greek professional soccer clubs’ TV rights is via collective selling. That is the model chosen in most of the strongest and most popular professional soccer championships in Europe.

### Conclusions

Based on the findings of the current study, relative studies that were carried out in other European countries, and of course the particularities of the Greek professional soccer market, the authors suggest that the optimal clubs TV rights’ selling mechanism is collective selling through the governing bodies of Greek professional soccer (either the Greek Soccer Federation or the Superleague/EPAE).

The findings of this study clearly showed that the clubs’ managers recognized the need for all the clubs to collectively exploit their TV rights by stating that the games of a championship gain value as part of it, and that TV viewers see the championship as a unity, a product by itself. Mostly it could be concluded by their statement that the Greek soccer federation or the soccer leagues own the clubs’ TV rights and must exploit them. On the other hand, they saw individual selling as a more appropriate model to sell their rights, since in that way they increased their TV income and their stadium attendance. The combination of the two aforementioned contradictory findings, could lead to the conclusion that the club managers think that collective selling is the optimal theoretical model for selling their TV rights, but the way it is currently implemented is not the optimal one, leading to lower results in both income and stadium attendance than those anticipated by the managers. Nevertheless, the need for collective selling was recognized by the managers and by the Greek soccer reality itself, since this model is the model that Greek soccer has chosen to apply for many years, and still does, even now that Greek professional soccer clubs have gained much professional experience by participating in European tournaments and interacting with renowned foreign soccer clubs. The small size of the Greek soccer market and its “hostile” environment to the average fan “client” make this necessity more apparent than ever before.

The current system’s partial failure can be fixed through designing and implementing a “fairer” TV income redistribution model, which will enhance the weaker teams. (As a side note, it is difficult to implement a US-like model that equally distributes the TV income to all the clubs of the league. This is because the whole sport’s theory and concept in USA is totally different than the European one). If weaker teams take more income, then they can afford to acquire better players and create a more competitive squad, leading to a more balanced championship, with more uncertain results. And this uncertainty is the key to league success, through an increase in fans’ interest that is interpreted in higher TV ratings, stadium standings, and spending in soccer products.

### Applications in Sport

This study can be a valuable tool for owners (primarily) and for marketing managers – commercial directors of the Greek professional soccer clubs to compare the Greek TV rights’ selling model efficiency with those used in developed, soccer-wise countries such as England, Germany, France, and Italy. The clubs’ higher management could use this study to evaluate their current selling mechanism, and design and implement a new one that would best fit the Greek soccer market characteristics and have the best possible financial and overall results for all the clubs and the championship.

Specifically, the clubs’ higher management, based on the study, could agree to reform the income redistribution system, so that is not based only on performance related criteria (such as the club’s standing, stadium attendance, fan-base, etc.) and for a more equal distribution of the TV revenues to be applied.

In order to verify the findings, an additional study could be carried out measuring the effect of the current selling model to the TV ratings of the clubs’ televised home games, the TV households’ accessibility in the clubs’ games coverage, etc.

### Figures

#### Figure 1: Dendrogram of the variables of the Greek soccer problems

![Dendrogram of the variables of the Greek soccer problems](http://thesportjournal.org/files/volume-14/434/fig1.jpg)

### Tables

#### Table 1: Ranking of the most significant problems in the Greek soccer by the professional soccer clubs management

Most significant problems in Greek soccer N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
Training grounds condition 65 2 4 3.03 0.77
Indifference of the State 65 2 5 3 0.729
Quality of the foreign soccer players 65 2 4 2.98 0.545
Involvement in the club management of people with no experience in this professional area 65 1 5 2.98 0.82
The soccer stadiums conditions 65 2 4 2.97 0.637
Quality of the academies soccer players 65 2 4 2.94 0.726
Fans’ violence 65 2 5 2.94 0.704
Reliability of the game’s outcome (referees) 65 2 5 2.8 0.755
Clubs’ finances 65 2 5 2.75 0.708
Competition with other sports 65 1 4 2.66 0.735

#### Table 2: Results of the PCA model conducted on the items of the questionnaires related to the most significant problems of Greek soccer

Component Initial Eigenvalues Rotation Sums of Squared Loadings
Total % of Variance Cumulative % Total % of Variance Cumulative %
1 2.484 24.836 24.836 2.313 23.131 23.131
2 1.430 14.301 39.137 1.514 15.145 38.276
3 1.328 13.276 52.413 1.351 13.509 51.785
4 1.189 11.893 64.306 1.252 12.521 64.306
5 .927 9.266 73.572
6 .727 7.268 80.840
7 .604 6.045 86.885
8 .531 5.308 92.193
9 .477 4.766 96.958
10 .304 3.042 100.000

Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis

#### Table 3: Parameter Significance Tests for the logistic regression model for the evaluation of the TV rights income redistribution model (Reference Group: “very bad – medium”)

Parameter Beta Odds Ratio (exp(B))
Intercept n.s.
Collective selling model and stadium attendance (ref.: left unchanged)
Increased positively -1.537* 0.215
Collective selling model and accessibility of the TV households to the broadcast of games(Ref.:left unchanged)
Increased positively -1.623* 0.197
Maximization of the total profits of the clubs and maximization of the profits of each club separately (ref.: very much)
A little n.s.
Moderately n.s.
Enough n.s.
Much n.s.
Collective selling model and the TV ratings of games (Ref.: left unchanged)
Increased positively n.s.
Collective selling model and financial strength/ ability to acquire talented players (Ref.: left unchanged)
Increased positively -1.961**** 0.141
Percentage of Clubs income and TV rights (ref.: 41%-60%)
21-40% n.s.
Collective selling model and club’s revenues (ref.: increased)
Decreased 4,077** 58,997
Left unchanged 4,815*** 123,304
Who must own the home games TV rights (Ref.: Soccer Federation)
Both teams n.s.
Clubs’ League n.s.
-2 Log likelihood 55.961
Nagelkerke R Square 0.488
Cox & Snell R Square 0.355

Dependent Variable: Evaluation of the TV rights income redistribution model of the current collective selling.

* Coefficient is significant at a 10% significance level
** Coefficient is significant at a 5% significance level
*** Coefficient is significant at a 1% significance level
**** Coefficient is significant at a 20% significance level
n.s. Non-significant

#### Table 4: Operationalization of the independent variables used for the logistic regression analysis model

Independent Variables Values
“Who must own the home games TV rights?”
  1. ΗomeClub
  2. Both Clubs
  3. Clubs League
  4. Soccer Federation
  5. Other
“The maximization of the total profits of the clubs leads to the maximization of the profits of each club separately?”
  1. not at all
  2. scarcely
  3. a little
  4. medium
  5. enough
“The current selling model of your TV rights has increased, decreased or left unchanged the TV ratings of your games?”
  1. increased
  2. not changed
  3. decreased
“The current selling model of your TV rights has increased, decreased or left unchanged the accessibility of the TV households to the broadcast of your games?”
  1. increased
  2. not changed
  3. decreased
“The current selling model of your TV rights has increased, decreased or left unchanged your stadium attendance?”
  1. increased
  2. not changed
  3. decreased
“The current selling model of your TV rights has increased, decreased or left unchanged your financial strength and your ability to acquire talented players?”
  1. increased
  2. not changed
  3. decreased
“With the current selling model of your TV rights your revenues, comparing to their real value, are higher, the same or lower?”
  1. higher
  2. same
  3. lower
“What percentage of your club’s income represents the money received from television rights?”
  1. 0-20%
  2. 21-40%
  3. 41-60%
  4. 61-80%
  5. 81-100%

### References

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### Corresponding Author

Christos Koutroumanides
Democritus University of Thrace, Greece,
5 Str Dagli, 65403, Kavala, Greece, T 0030-2510-232075
<christoskoutroumanides@yahoo.gr>

### Authors

**Christos Koutroumanides**,
Democritus University of Thrace, Greece

**Athanasios Laios**,
Democritus University of Thrace, Greece

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