In 2006, PBC Ural Great was crowned FIBA EuroCup Challenge champion and was a perennial contender in the Russian League. Just two post-seasons later, the club had worked its way into such a pile of debt that authorities “seized Ural Great’s office furniture and equipment for unpaid debts.”
So what in the name of Gomelsky happened?
That’s the first question posed by sports journalist attending a press conference with Ural Great club president Andrei Agishev; the team’s official website has posted a complete transcript. (Unfortunately only in Russian; English-language version hopefully forthcoming.)
In the long statement, Agishev breaks his media silence to offer his side of the story to critics (who are many, to be sure). Agishev blames the current state of the “team” – i.e. all formerly signed players released into free agency, amateur status now assigned, and a schedule consisting of zero games for 2009-10 – on the current financial situation.
High among the woes was the national sport agency’s cutting of 40 million rubles (approximately €880,000), or 30% of total federal support for Ural, in November 2008.
Agishev stated that this, plus a collapse of the ruble in December, precipitated a situation in which the club now will be expected to repay an estimated 40 million rubles. In his defense, Agishev claims to have inherited a debt of 91 million rules when he joined the Ural Great front office in 2005.
Agishev also complains of lack of support from “authorities” who promised sponsorship packages but had no intention of delivering (“Все заявления о том, что потенциальные спонсоры где-то есть, что они вот-вот появятся, оказались не более чем блефом”), reckoning that “at the government level, it was decided that the club must die.”
Today, the club is believed to be six months behind in paying its players, and it is alleged that some salary monies have not been paid going back to 2006.
Perhaps most amazing in all this so far is that Agishev has maintained his job; judging by the comments left on this post alone, the man has little support within fandom.
Naturally, Agishev does promise a return to greatness for Ural once the present “challenges” are faced, but it’s hard to imagine this club as anything but a shadow of its former glory for some time to come.