Perhaps not such a merry Christmas for Greece, then: Due to continuing conflict between ESAKE and the Greek players union (PSAK), play in the country’s top league may be stopped as of January 1.
Issues in play in the dispute include salary concerns, support for amateur ball, television rights and limits on non-European players.
Talk Basket lays down some heavy verbiage which seems to indicate that local players are the ones on the wrong end of exploitation:
…clubs like Panellinios are threatening players with fascist measures such as releasing them in case they go on a strike. Trikala which didn’t even bother to meet even the rest of the clubs don’t even pay their players, like [Giorgi] Tsintsandze, whose agent told TalkBasket that it was the only reason his client left the club and signed with Donetsk.
Deep-pocketed Olympiacos management has been quite high-profile as well, lobbying hard for continuation of the league’s allowance of three non-European players per roster only to release Von Wafer; additionally, the team has taken aim against the players union in recent official statements.
The strike date isn’t quite a done deal, though, with PSAK having scheduled another meeting for December 27. In fact, players could have firmly set the January 1 lockout date at this week’s meeting but postponed doing so.
Greece-based Sportnet.gr believes that this delay reflects a softening of the players’ attitude toward a possible strike, and is playing up the potential of the meeting between PSAK president Lazaros Papadopoulos and Greek secretariat general of sports Panos Bitsaxis set for after Christmas.
Sportnet sees the players’ actions and upcoming meets as sounding like a goodwill gesture while the players have received positive signals from Bitsaxis and new leadership. (“Όλο αυτό ακούγεται σαν μια κίνηση καλής θέλησης – οι αθλητές έχουν λάβει θετικά μηνύματα από τη νέα πολιτική ηγεσία και θέλουν να δουν που μπορεί να πάει το πράγμα.”)
On his part, Bitsaxis released a damage control-type statement on Tuesday, stating that he firmly believed a compromise could be reached between all parties. Bitsaxis noted that continuation of top-level Greek basketball was the “responsibility and interest of the Greek state” and that the two sides were not as divergent of view as is publicly believed.
Also interesting to note was Bitsaxis’ estimation that at least €1.5 million in taxpayer money goes to Greek basketball. (Δηλαδή με δύο λόγια, εκτός από τη χρηματοδότηση της Ομοσπονδίας Μπάσκετ ο φορολογούμενος πληρώνει μεταξύ άλλων, αν όχι κυρίως και για την ευρυθμία των πρωταθλημάτων 1.500.000 ευρώ.)
Let’s just hope, in this critical year financially for European sport that all this “goodwill” and optimism is founded in reality. Keep fingers crossed through the holiday, Greece. (And you might want to get out a few last-minute emails to Santa.)