By Alex Madrid / firstname.lastname@example.org
The negotiations between Ukraine and Russia seem to be advancing, so there is a slight hope that the war will end soon. However, for Russian clubs that compete (or used to) in Europe, the truce may not come in time.
“Euroleague has set March 21 as the deadline for the decision, but I know the answer we will receive,” Andrey Vatutin – the president of CSKA Moscow and one of the individuals who has addressed the press the most since the start of the war conflict – stated.
Time is running against them and every second that passes seems to make the idea of Euroleague with the three Russian teams less realistic. In fact, the revised standings will become official in a matter of a few days, with very slim chances of it not happening.
If in the best-case scenario, the peace agreements prosper and a ceasefire is almost imminent, it will still remain almost utopian for Russian clubs to continue to compete this season across the continent, even if just for logistical reasons.
The focus must therefore be on the next season since the whole ongoing situation is basically a guessing exercise and the only thing that can really be guaranteed is that nothing will be known about the 2022-23 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague until summer.
CSKA, against the clock
The summer season is always busy for club management but, for Russian clubs, it will be even more intense in a climate of uncertainty and with two scenarios on the table.
The first assumption, the ideal, would show us a calm political climate. CSKA, as a member of the ECA and holder of an A license, would play the Euroleague, while Zenit St. Petersburg and UNICS Kazan would await a decision on which competition they should play. It is true that, in the case of the Kazan team, its return to the EuroCup seems more than likely. With Xavi Pascual’s Zenit, which has laid the foundations for a solid and growing project, its presence among the elite cannot be ruled out.
But let us go back and focus on CSKA, given that its participation in the EuroLeague will be the most likely of the three as an owner of the competition. The team chaired by Vatutin will have to face a complex economic situation, beyond the devaluation of the Russian ruble.
The forced renegotiation of the club’s main sponsorship agreements in Russia, as well as the preparation of a squad. Although up to now they have received ‘buyouts’ for all the players who have decided to leave (Daniel Hackett, Toko Shengelia, Iffe Lundberg – in that order), they barely have foreign players left on the payroll and the end of Will Clyburn’s contract, the team’s main star, is approaching.
Obviously, the timing of operations will also be a decisive factor in the aspirations of a team that had not missed a Final Four for more than a decade: the players expect less and less from the clubs and by mid-August, practically all the squads will be closed.
As for devastating scenario number two – the war drags on. Logistically, the participation of CSKA, which would face public opinion and scrutinization again [the acronym CSKA refers to the Central Sports Club of the Army], would most likely have to be done on neutral ground. If at all.
In either case, the competition would suffer the absence of one of its main powers, therefore seeing a hard impact on both the sporting and financial levels. Also, CSKA would still continue to be linked to the Euroleague, since there is no way for an A license to be canceled due to force majeure (such as a war conflict). At least on paper.
So, despite the future of the Army Team, and whether the war continues or not, CSKA will continue to have a voice and a vote in the organization, although interested parties, such as Ergin Ataman, do not understand it.
In short, we will have to wait until this summer for all the doubts surrounding CSKA to even begin to get cleared up.