SPORTS

Battle between federation, clubs is a threat to Greek basketball

A battle of big egos threatens to throw Greek basketball into yet more turmoil. On the one side is Giorgos Vassilakopoulos, president of the Hellenic Basketball Federation (EPO) and also head of the newly created European Basketball Federation. On the other, is the Hellenic Basketball Clubs Association (ESAKE). This is part of a greater struggle that has erupted between officials of FIBA – the International Basketball Association – and its member federation, on the one side, and the basketball clubs, on the other. It has mainly to do with the transition of the game to full professional status and the desire of the clubs to get a better deal from TV rights and advertisements, without having to split the proceeds with FIBA, whom they view as an anachronism from the sport’s amateur past. This split has led to the organization of two separate European championships last season. The domestic conflict stems from similar causes, although it has its own specificities. Vassilakopoulos has never quite felt comfortable with basketball’s evolution into a professional sport and he has a low opinion of several club owners, some of whom have brought their clubs to the brink of insolvency. In a recent interview he called them parasites, seemingly without distinguishing between them. That was enough to enrage ESAKE officials, who are now threatening to pull out of the monthlong negotiations with EPO on several issues, including a professional corps of referees and the number of foreign players allowed in the league. Yesterday’s meeting between the two bodies was so acrimonious that Nikos Exarchos, the general secretary for sport, who serves as a mediator, said afterward, This resembled a battlefield in Palestine. Under these conditions, you should not expect much. We cannot have the people who serve Greek basketball being called parasites, said ESAKE President Manolis Papakaliatis. You have the right to leave if you considered yourselves insulted… The government will continue talks with each of you, said Exarchos. ESAKE now threatens to unilaterally abolish the ceiling on the number of European players each club may have on its roster, a move deeply unpopular with Greek players, who see themselves increasingly relegated to the benches. Commenting on the songwriter’s impact on Greek song, Fasianos highlighted the uniqueness he sensed in Savvopoulos’s songwriting. His music does not sound like any other. It stems from the flow of daily life, Fasianos remarked. It’s ‘Greek’ music and we like it because it paved a new way.