Panathinaikos basketball club owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos is threatening to take the six-time European champion off the Euroleague unless his one-year court ban is reversed – or reduced conseiderably – by the appeals committee of Europe's prime basketball club league.
The Euroleague has imposed a particularly harsh penalty on the Greens’ owner following his response to vitriolic comments Turkish fans on Instagram. This also came after a number of instances in which Giannakopoulos and Panathinaikos feel the Euroleague has been particularly hostile toward them.
In a statement published late on Monday, Giannakopoulos said that if his ban is upheld he will pose a question to the Panathinaikos fans in the form of a referendum, whether they wish the club to remain in the Euroleague, as its long-term contract dictates, or move to another continental tournament. He added that if the fans choose to keep the Greens in the Euroleague, he will leave Panathinaikos.
It follows reports of a recent visit by Giannakopoulos to the headquarters of FIBA Europe, organizers of Euroleague’s rival tournament, the Basketball Champions League.
Observers note that if Panathinaikos does implement its threat and moves to the Champions League, creating a major rift in the Euroleague, other leading European clubs might follow suit.
The opt-out clause in Panathinaikos’s 10-year contract with the Euroleague amounts to 10 million euros.