By Stefanos Tatsios, Antigoni Zachari / email@example.com
Athens will be the host city of the season-concluding Final Eight tournament and Basketball Champions League CEO Patrick Comninos explained behind this selection in the presser that followed the announcement that the BCL will create its own version of a “bubble” in the Greek capital.
“We chose Athens for two reasons, first of all, the excellent cooperation we have with the Greek government and the reassurances we received about the entry and exit of teams” stated Comninos. “That was one of the main reasons. And of course, we come to an environment that has shown a good response to the pandemic and gives us the guarantees for the implementation of the effort”.
“The second reason is the experience of AEK and the fact that the OAKA stadium creates security for us”, added the Basketball Champions League CEO.
Comninos introduced the idea of a BCL bubble and further explained the competition’s guidelines in case of a positive test.
“Ιn the first part for the arrival of the teams, there are some central protocols and they will be updated. The Athens Hilton hotel will be what our “bubble” is. Anyone traveling here will have to have tested negative for coronavirus 72 hours in advance. Additional measures could be set in place, in accordance with the government. Our protocols suggest testing symptomatic players, who will then be isolated and tracked. For us, a positive test does not mean postponing a game, rather than isolating the athletes in this case. These are all standard protocols. There will be a separate bus for each team. We have based all this on the protocols implemented in Spain and Germany, but we also followed those of the NBA”, he mentioned.
There is still no final decision about the presence of fans in the tournament, though Comninos and the BCL organization show goodwill in the event of approval.
“We are alert and remain in communication with AEK and institutions if and when there is approval for the presence of fans. This decision will be taken by the government departments”, he explained. “Fans from other countries will be treated like any other traveler by the government. After that, if they come to the stadium, the same guidelines will apply to everyone”.
Lefteris Avgenakis, Deputy Minister of Sports also referred to the discussion of fans returning to the courts. “There is a discussion, we are in favor of fans returning to the stands in an organized manner, with a business plan with rules and sanctions. We will listen to the opinion of the experts. Our intention is for fans to return to the court as soon as possible”.
“There is no chance of a discount. Epidemiological data are evaluated every day. As we approach the event we will weigh the data. If there is an epidemiological possibility, we will discuss the option for a few fans in attendance. We still cannot say anything. It makes sense for people to return to the stadiums, but without compromising public health,” mentions Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias.
As Comninos further elaborated, Israel was not an option for the Final Eight after the rise of COVID cases in the country: “When we decided to do a Final Eight, our first options were the clubs which had already applied for the Final Four. We had many talks with Hapoel about Jerusalem. However, with the pandemic evolving in a bad way in the country, the local government couldn’t guarantee that the participating teams could enter and leave Israel. That’s why we searched for alternatives. Our past experience in Athens and the reassurance of the government about the will to host the event were a big part of our decision”.
Still, having fans in the gym is a very different story. “We will not play with public health and we don’t want our event to be associated with a negative incident”, said Comninos. “We will follow the decisions of the Greek government and we will implement everything that will be asked from us. We want to be prepared, However, no fans mean also no ticketing revenues and this is something that we will have to tackle together with AEK. We want to make an event even more successful compared to 2018 Final Four. The minimum cost for that should be at least 1,5 million euros”.
The Final Eight Tournament is scheduled to take place between September 30-October 4 at the Nick Galis Hall (OAKA), which has previously hosted the BCL 2018 Final Four.