Andrey Vatutin: “I am sure CSKA will return to the top, even if it takes some time”

2022-05-16T22:23:42+00:00 2022-05-16T22:32:20+00:00.

Aris Barkas

16/May/22 22:23

CSKA President Andrey Vatutin talked to Eurohoops about the immediate future of the team which still wants to be part of the 2022-23 EuroLeague season

By Aris Barkas/

Andrey Vatutin is synonymous with CSKA Moscow. A member of the club’s management since 2002, and named CEO and president in 2009, Vatutin – like CSKA – is a key player in everything that happened in European basketball during the last 20 years.

And once more is proven that no matter what anyone with good intentions may believe, sports are politics. And that’s not necessarily bad. That’s why it’s hard to imagine that any Russian team will be part of any international competition in the near future.

Still, CSKA, as Andrey Vatutin explains is “not ready to quickly give up the status of a full-fledged participant”, even if it’s totally clear at this point that the EuroLeague will have to follow the lead of the rest of the global sports authorities. As he said to Eurohoops, CSKA intends to be back. The big question that can’t be answered is when…

– Do you really think that you can continue playing in the Euroleague?

Of course, it’s our big desire, but one’s desire is not enough, there are a lot of factors that directly affect this, primarily political ones. Russian sport has found itself in an extremely difficult situation, frankly, in trouble. Now there is a clear trend toward “cutting out” our sport from the world. Our football clubs and the National Team have been suspended by UEFA, the Ice Hockey World Championship is now taking place without Russians, broadcasts of the Euroleague on the territory of the Russian Federation have been stopped, etc. From the latter, Russia was not allowed to participate in the tender for the acquisition of TV rights to broadcast the Olympics in 2026 and 2028. Let’s be honest – it is possible to survive now, but it is very, very difficult to develop. Nevertheless, we sent a letter of intent to play in the 2022-23 season to the Euroleague and all shareholder clubs, and we are ready to discuss this with our colleagues. Despite all the difficulties, we are ready to make every effort to ensure security in Russia and, as of today, we consider it possible to travel via Belgrade or Istanbul. We have never stopped interacting with our European colleagues, we are the members of the Shareholders Board, we fulfill all our obligations, and we continue to participate in all meetings on strategic issues. We believe, despite all the circumstances, it is necessary to preserve the integrity of the tournament, its core, stability, and traditions.

– In connection with the departure of many important players, will you be able to stay at a high level?

Indeed, now our transfer activity is significantly limited, actually frozen. It’s not just the unwillingness of some players to sign contracts in Russia. The existing uncertainty with the tournament in which CSKA will play does not allow us to negotiate, while most of the clubs are active in the market right now. I understand that we may have to forcefully reduce our sporting ambitions, and we are ready to go through a transitional period.

– What is the situation on the contracts of the players who left the team?

As you know, Lundberg, Hackett, and Shengelia found new teams by agreeing with us on buyouts. We are glad that the guys continue to perform at a high level. Iffe became the first “real” Dane in the NBA, not counting Copenhagen-born Lars Hansen who had a Canadian passport. I congratulated Dani Hackett and Sergio Scariolo, who won the EuroCup and returned Virtus to the Euroleague. By the way, I am very happy for my friend Milos Teodosic, who once again demonstrated his genius and took another personal accolade. Unfortunately, today it was not possible to agree with all of our players who left the team, so litigation is not ruled out. Also, I would like to thank all players and coaches who remained on the team and helped us reach the VTB League Finals.

– What happened to Kevin Pangos, who signed the contract, but never appeared in the team’s location?

By an amazing coincidence, we signed all the documents with Kevin on February 23rd. (ed. note: On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine). He thought for a long time about whether to join the team or not, but in the end, he chose to stay in Canada. Both sides continue to discuss the future. Here, again, an important role will be played by the possibility of our team playing in the Euroleague.

– Is the club ready to maintain the previous budget level?

Like all these years, we have the full support of our owner, but still, even the departure of players with expensive contracts and “savings” on bonuses will not cover the losses for us from the departure of some sponsors. We are working in this direction. In any case, we will try to gather a competitive team.

– If you are not able to play in the EuroLeague due to international sanctions on Russia because of the war with Ukraine, are you willing to remain a shareholder?

I think it’s completely pointless to discuss options for the development of events, the trajectories can be various. Now we are only talking about our readiness to continue playing in the EuroLeague and do not want to get ahead of events. Of course, strategically, we see ourselves in the main club competition of the continent, and I know that many in Europe want CSKA to remain part of the tournament.

– You are obviously not a politician but do you think that we can return to the previous status quo in basketball after everything that happened?

Firstly, we are not ready to quickly give up the status of a full-fledged participant in the tournament. Secondly, our owners provide the club with full support. CSKA will turn 100 next year. We will do our best so that the great history of our club continues, and the collection of the museum is replenished with the more valuable trophies. I’m sure that CSKA will return to the top, even if it takes some time.