Euroleague Basketball details expansion plan

Euroleague Basketball has outlined expansion plans for its top-tier EuroLeague competition, as the owner of leading Greek team Panathinaikos said the club will leave for the Basketball Champions League amid clashes with Euroleague administration.

The Euroleague Commercial Assets (ECA) Shareholders Executive Board met in the Spanish capital, Madrid, yesterday (Thursday) with a number of items on the agenda.

EuroLeague expansion opportunities were discussed with the Executive Board members agreeing to incorporate two additional clubs in the 2019-20 season for a total of 18, with Germany and France the previously defined priority markets.

In Germany, it was agreed that FC Bayern Munich will receive an associate wild card for two seasons, while in France Euroleague Basketball will continue working with ASVEL Villeurbanne to ensure compliance with the proposed minimum commitments, with a view to granting an associate wild card for two seasons. 

Meanwhile, the future of Panathinaikos was a major talking point, with the Athens club’s owner, Dimitris Giannakopoulos, taking to social media platform Instagram threatening to move the team to the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) led Champions League.

Giannakopoulos is a controversial figure in European basketball circles and was recently banned from arenas this season for one year after insulting the fans of current title holders Fenerbahçe Doğuş over social media. The ban was later reduced to five months, but Giannakopoulos lashed out yesterday after failing in attempt to have the punishment overturned.

Euroleague Basketball said in a statement: “The Board… reviewed the recent public statements made by Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens’ owner, Mr. Dimitris Giannakopoulos, including the dossier he recently shared with numerous media outlets across Europe.

“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 the ECA Shareholders, with these condemning Mr. Giannakopoulos’ behaviour, requesting him to stop his public statements immediately.

“Clubs unequivocally reminded Panathinaikos and its owner about the existing internal processes that must be followed to express any discrepancies or questions, as have been repeatedly defined and approved by all the shareholders, including Panathinaikos. All clubs also expressed their ultimate respect towards Panathinaikos as a historic and iconic institution in European club basketball and sports, and a fellow ECA shareholder.

“Mr. Giannakopoulos requested the other ECA shareholders present to instruct the Euroleague Basketball CEO to amnesty the arena prohibition sanction that is currently in place. The clubs unanimously rejected this request, after which Mr. Giannakopoulos unfortunately left the meeting prior to its conclusion.”

The Eurohoops website noted that if Giannakopoulos and Panathinaikos insist on leaving the league, a legal process will commence as the club is obliged to pay a penalty of €10m ($12.4m) due to a 10-year contract with Euroleague and the IMG agency.