Panathinaikos basketball club owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos has chosen a different way in European basketball by switching competitions. The Greek champions’ strongman announced on Thursday that as of next season the Greens will swap the Euroleague for FIBA’s Basketball Champions League.
“Panathinaikos is returning to where basketball should always have been... Final!” Giannakopoulos wrote on Instagram, posting also the logo of FIBA.
The announced departure of Panathinaikos from the Euroleague created a shock at first in European basketball on Thursday, and it is certain this is no mere tactics by Giannakopoulos. However it is highly debatable whether this will create a further rift among the other Euroleague partners or whether other clubs will follow to the exit.
Until proven otherwise, six-time European champion and highly respected Panathinaikos will go it alone in switching competitions, away from the Euroleague, while the issue of the 10-million-euro get-out clause will be resolved in court.
The very bad relations between the Euroleague and Panathinaikos, as formed in the last three months on personal level between Giannakopoulos and Euroleague head Jordi Bertomeu, were definitively broken on Thursday at the meeting of the Euroleague stakeholders.
The Greens’ owner openly challenged the Euroleague chief executive officer over the small revenues of clubs despite the huge deal of $35 million euros two years ago. He also raised an issue for an election for the departure of Bertomeu from the position he has held unchallenged in the last 13 years, and qualified as a failure the Catalan official for he has not rendered any more popular the competition in the major markets of Italy, Germany, France and Britain.
“What else is he waiting for to resign?” Giannakopoulos wondered in front of the representatives and owners of the other 10 Euroleague members with a 10-year contract. The other clubs may have listened to the accusations Giannakopoulos leveled against Bertomeu, but when they were asked to offer an amnesty to the Greek official for the stadium ban on moral grounds, they unequivocally rejected the request, as the Euroleague said in a statement.
“All clubs present with the only exception of Panathinaikos, unanimously and strongly agreed that such statements are of the highest severity and cause damage to the Euroleague – the competition property of shareholders, with these condemning Mr. Giannakopoulos’ behavior, requesting him to stop his public statements immediately.” read the Euroleague statement.
In a form of response to the Panathinaikos departure, the Euroleague announced its expansion from 16 clubs to 18 from the 2019-2020 season through the addition of Bayern Munich and Villeurbanne.