“Euroleague drifted more into commerce and undervalues the principles of sport,” – says the president of Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius basketball club Gedvydas Vainauskas.
The country ranking system, which is not always taken into account, the questionable wild card policy – these things are damaging the image of Euroleague. Even in the Annual Euroleague Assembly there were a lot of discussions on why the wild cards were granted to Budivelnyk Kiev, Strasbourg SIG and Bayern Munich.
“These clubs haven’t achieved anything in international basketball and in Ukraine, France and Germany basketball definitely is not the most popular sport. Therefore, Euroleague management’s arguments that these markets are very important do not seem very convincing,” – says Mr. Vainauskas. “Everything is much easier – clubs simply pay a certain amount and recieve wildcards to participate in Euroleague. Would it be possible to imagine this happening for example in football?”.
According to the president of BC Lietuvos Rytas, at times like these, when many countries suffer from the economic crisis, it is very important to follow the sports principle: “If everything relates only to money, the inequality between the clubs only increases”.
This year, Acea Rome, who was the Italian league finalist and was awarded with a B licence, refused a spot in Euroleague. According to the country ranking system the next spots after Italy were intended for two basketball countries – Turkey (Banvit Bandirma) and Lithuania (Lietuvos Rytas). However, Euroleague did not take this into account.
“In the past, Euroleague management emphasized that clubs participating in Euroleague have to match certain standards: play in big arenas, attract more fans to home games,” – states Mr. Vainauskas. “So far our club has played in Euroleague five seasons and has always been complimented for the level of organized events, basketball and teams accommodation infrastructure. However, lately to Euroleague these things seem to be secondary”.
G. Vainauskas thinks that an exam of Euroleague’s objectivity can be the selection of who will organize this year’s Euroleague Qualifying Tournament.
“We offered to host this tournament because Vilnius has a great arena, hotels and Lietuvos Rytas basketball club – experience, because we have already hosted the Euroleague Qualifying Tournament in 2011,” – says Mr. Vainauskas. “Euroleague definitely knows our arguments and capabilities. Therefore, it is truly interesting whether we can be objectively outrivaled by a city, where it is clear that the conditions for the participant clubs will be inferior, but Euroleague will be offered more money”.
G. Vainauskas does not doubt that Euroleague is a great sport and commercial project which has gained recognition throughout Europe, valued by the NBA. “But when sport principles are outweighed by commerce and subjectivity, Euroleague is threatened to destroy itself as a sports structure – lose the trust of participating clubs, supporters and sponsors,” – says the president of Lietuvos Rytas basketball club.