Thursday’s ECA shareholders meeting was a chance for Panathinaikos owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos to iron out any issues and problems that he had with EuroLeague Basketball and work together with CEO Jordi Bertomeu towards a peaceful solution, whereby his current suspension would run its course and the matter would be forgotten.
With time to think about what he had to say and what manner in which to go about it as well as a positive vibe from EuroLeague Basketball, who issued a press release stating that Giannakopoulos would be available to have his say and he would be mentioned in the annual agenda, things looked good.
With three weeks of thought and preparation, the ECA and the 11 teams that hold A-licences, which includes Panathinaikos met in Madrid to review the season, talk progress and make strategic decisions ahead of the next campaign and of course discuss the issues surrounding Giannakopoulos who this season was fined €60,000 and banned from all EuroLeague arenas until June 30 for the social media posts below.
This isn’t the first time that Giannakopoulos has been in hot water with the EuroLeague, with a list of offences longer than a five-year-old’s Christmas list, this season’s offences of calling out referees for missed calls and breaking his arena curfew by showing up during the Athens derby was nothing really out of the ordinary.
His latest fine, due to the comments that he made on social media regarding the refereeing decisions that cost Panathinaikos a crucial EuroLeague game away to champions Fenerbahce were plausible and he had a case, but he went about things the wrong way and launched into a verbal tirade that was asking for a fine and an arena ban.
Giannakopoulos though had the following of the Panathinaikos fans, who donned masks with his face on during a EuroLeague game against Baskonia on February 8, which they won 80-76. And heading into the meeting, he was expecting to have the support of the other ten sides.
The outspoken owner, who was once fined €150,000 for threatening to kill the referees after A WIN over CSKA Moscow in the 2015 EuroLeague playoffs thought he had their trust and understanding in a meeting that included Giannakopoulos’ long-time friend, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv president Simon Mizrahi. Giannakopoulos put his case forward and requested that his arena ban would be lifted so that he could be present for Panathinaikos’ upcoming playoff series against Real Madrid, which gets underway on Tuesday night in Athens in front of an expected sell-out crowd.
Bertomeu put it to a vote among the 11 clubs present in Madrid. It was unanimously rejected.
But hope was not lost. With Giannakopoulos representing Panathinaikos, a team that has six EuroLeague titles along with a total of 53 Greek championships bulging the trophy cabinet, he needed to swallow his pride and admit his guilt. While his case was valid, he went about it in a reckless and aggressive way. Not to mention, his dossier and history of EuroLeague favouring clubs from Spain and Turkey along with rivals Olympiacos added further fuel to the fire.
Knowing that he was up against it, Giannakopoulos stood up in front of a packed meeting room full of EuroLeague of club executives not to mention CEO Jordi Bertomeu and walked out of the room refusing to take part in the remainder of the session.
The moment that he shut the door behind him, was the moment that the credibility of a once proud basketball club was shattered. The stubborn nature of Giannakopoulos and his refusal to accept a punishment that was warranted has tainted Panathinaikos and its heritage. To purposely break the arena ban and be present for a EuroLeague game was wrong – and instead of admitting the fault and both parties moving on – he walked away from the issue.
Giannakopoulos’ back was against the wall, he had no support in a battle that he had lost then and there and because of his actions, his team’s playoff clash with Real Madrid will be unfortunately centred around a guy who won’t even be in attendance instead of what it should be about: the game.
∞∞∞ WHAT NEXT? ∞∞∞
Giannakopoulos’ walkout in Madrid has raised questions. After the meeting, the Panathinaikos owner has strongly hinted that following the conclusion of the EuroLeague season, he will take them out of the competition and enter them into FIBA-sanctioned leagues, with the Basketball Champions League the Greens’ next venture.
With Panathinaikos possibly looking into the Basketball Champions League, they will be essentially entering European basketball’s third tier and the loyalty to Giannakopoulos and the green vest in the off-season will be tested. Will players such as Nick Calathes, James Gist, Chris Singleton and company remain with the team or will they look to stay in the EuroLeague?
Will FIBA accept Panathinaikos? With Giannakopoulos’ history and the way that they have left the EuroLeague? Regardless of the governing body’s battles with Bertomeu and company, they will need to think long and hard about the issues being faced right now.
And with all eyes being on Tuesday first game against Real Madrid in front of what is expected to be a sell-out crowd at the OAKA, how will Panathinaikos approach the game? Will the news surrounding the team further motivate them to reach the Final Four in Belgrade and supposedly leave the EuroLeague on a high?
Or will the team run by a man who no longer wants his side competing with the best outside of the NBA choose to let Real Madrid win in three games and make the series less competitive? Maybe that’s a little outside of the box thing in principle, but the events of Thursday at the ECA meeting in Madrid, anything with Panathinaikos is possible.
Either way, Dimitris Giannakopoulos has left a dark cloud hanging over Panathinaikos due to his actions. It started with an incident that he was actually right to criticise. However, he then went too far and rather than face the music and accept, he walked away from the problem that he created on his own.