By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
EuroLeague Head Coaches Board (EHCB) Executive Director Goran Sasic discussed the suspension of the competition due to the coronavirus pandemic, the circumstances under which the championship may resume, and the complicated contract situation in Europe, that includes clubs implementing Force Majeure.
Sasic’s full interview to NOVA.rs is as follows:
How would a long suspension affect the regularity of the competition?
I had a phone call in the very first days of the suspension with one of our members who called me and said that we need to make sure that all teams are on the same level of physical preparation out of fair play principles. On the other hand, I had another member asking me what if my club doesn’t pay the players, and they won’t return for July when the competition continues, for example, claiming that his roster will not be the same in March and in July. A third one called me and said if the health concerns are off the table, we need to resume and finish the season in a sportive manner on the court. I think that we will conclude that in such a unique situation we will have to adapt to the job at hand. So the wording of regularity of competition, I would leave in hyphens.
If the season is resumed in a period when the contracts are expired, would that create a problem for the coaches?
The Olympic games are postponed, so we know that the NBA will continue in July and August, for example, so we would align with this simulation as well, so we won’t see a market shift between the USA and Europe. Also, the Clubs, EHCB, and ELPA would need to agree to extend the expiring contracts of June until July, for example. UEFA postponed the Euro to 2021, and the same model of contract extensions will have to be applied in the football Champions League and other competitions, too.
More and more, the Force Majeure is mentioned in which the clubs don’t need to pay out the contracts because of the pandemic…
We disagree with this chain of argumentation. It could only be applied under three circumstances; firstly, if there is a CBA in place with this clause, secondly, if the labor contracts have this clause or finally if the ten countries’ national labor laws have this clause. It also needs to be stated that, Euroleague has not canceled the season, but suspended it, making another reason why this clause is difficult to apply. We believe that we need to proceed with caution and have the right information and a full picture of what is happening. We can’t take the CBA from the NBA and apply it equally in Europe as we are not in the same circumstances, with geographic differences and with different legal applications per country. This is why a reference to the UEFA Champions League is more in value for us that looking to the USA, which is one country under the same law.
On paper, the competition could resume when the health concerns are off the table, but how long would it take the teams to get back in shape, taking into consideration that no one can practice at all?
The principle of everyone being on the same physical condition will be the most important topic we will ask for, if and when the competition is resumed, and the format decided. We believe that it should be some 3-4 weeks before the competition can resume. But let me make it clear, we will always back the possibility of finishing the season on the court, but we need to do it in a way that guarantees health and safety measures. Also, this training camp period shouldn’t be too short if, for example, the players didn’t practice for three months we can’t just have one week to get them back into shape otherwise the quality of the game could not be guaranteed, and the fans wouldn’t get what they expect.
ECA gave out a press release from the Euroleague Board Meeting. Do you expect that you as coaches as a significant factor and the players union will be asked?
Of course, we will always be ready to discuss any topic with all relevant stakeholders. We will propose that we should set up a working group consisting of EB / Clubs, EHCB, ELPA, UEBO (referees), and the EB DRC ( Dispute Resolution Chamber) board members to come to a mutual agreement how to handle the current situation. On the other hand, when the competition-related topics need to be discussed, we will give our contribution. We are all part of the same family and their also many more stakeholders that need to join this discussion, such as the fans, TV right holders, partners, and many more.
In football, they already mention that contracts will decrease in future seasons. Do you expect the same in basketball?
It is difficult to make such comparisons, but the reality is that in Europe, football is king, and it will always be that way. That is why I mentioned many times in the past weeks that we should see how football is reacting, and that will be the closest to the reality of the decisions that basketball can take. Maybe in the short run, it could happen, but in the end, the quest for the best players will always have its market value. Real will always compete with Barcelona, Bayern will always do it with Dortmund, Liverpool with Manchester United will try to recruit a player or coach. The same will apply to basketball, too.
This situation opened a lot of questions of most that contracts are not standardized and where coaches and players can be harmed in the end.
All that I can say is that we are in a specific and unique situation with ten countries where the Turkish Airlines Euroleague is played, and we can’t merely look at what is happening in the USA/ NBA and take a page out of that book. That is why I insist that we need to see what the football Champions League is doing or what the Premier League in the UK is doing and also looking into what the Chinese Basketball League is doing. We are following the different sports and the various leagues around the globe, but in the end, we need to find a Euroleague solution.
We founded the Euroleague Basketball Dispute Resolution Chamber in December 2019, which brings dispute resolutions under the same umbrella of Euroleague Basketball. That was the first goal we had, and the next target in terms of governance we started working on was standard contracts for all coaches. The third goal is to come to a framework agreement or what people better know as the collective bargaining agreement. I had mentioned the target of a CBA during one of the first interviews I gave when we founded the EuroLeague Head Coaches Board. Even though we are in horrible times, but out of everything bad, one should also find a positive thing to look at. Ours could be that we come to a mutual consensus on many of those topics mentioned above. I believe that now is the time when many things can be changed for the better and that the basketball world can unite.