By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
Crvena Zvezda was present in Kaunas, with the club being represented in the ANGT junior tournament and Nikola Topic being among the member of the Top5, stealing the show with his scoring abilities.
However, the Final Four is much more, a chance to meet with decision-makers around Europe and plan for your future, at least unofficially. And that’s also the case with Zvezda. In theory, the Serbs, neither Partizan nor Zvezda, have secured a spot in next season’s EuroLeague, but they are preparing to be part of the competition and as interim CEO Marshall Glickman admitted, pretty much they are in.
Eurohoops talked with Zvezda’s GM Nemanja Vasilejevic about this matter and also about the Campazzo incident, the planning for a club which is EuroLeague material but has to wait until July to be officially part of the party, and also the budget of the team, an issue that raised a lot of eyebrows around Europe.
Outside your presence here for the Junior tournament is there any other indication so far from the EuroLeague about their intentions for Crvena Zvezda next season?
No, officially no. Unofficially, I think it’s what we all hear that probably the same teams from this season will play next season also, but until it’s official for us there’s only one way to win the ABA League to be sure that we are going to play in the EuroLeague next season.
Are you still a little bit concerned about the way that EuroLeague treated you in the situation with Campazzo?
Well, I think this situation could be handled differently because from the point of, let’s say, punishment, we did what they wanted us to do and what they wanted to achieve with the punishment. We made all the payments, and all the agreements, and everything was settled. So I think that they could allow him to play before the last day of the deadline for adding new players.
I think it hurt us a lot, but also it hurt the competition because if you as a competition don’t want a player like Facu to play, or any other player I mean, in the end, it turns out that player was punished. The club was sanctioned, we pay the fine, and we did all we had to do. So yeah, I think it could have been handled differently and hopefully in the future somebody will have a similar situation and it will be handled in a different way.
Did you also learn something about how to handle things better, because EuroLeague is not crazy, they had a reason to proceed like that…
Yes, of course, I mean we said that we understand we made a mistake. It’s not a problem to sanction us. During the whole process and the communication with the EuroLeague, we said the same. There were many fines imposed during the season, but just let us play. Because at that moment, if you remember, we had a lot of injured players, our roster was depleted and we needed a player. Of course, we learned and hopefully, we will never be again in any similar situations in the future.
Considering that you are not on A licensed club, are you happy with your season in the EuroLeague, there is a huge difference between having an A license and not having the security of staying more than one season in the competition…
That is what bothers us a lot, because it’s, let’s say, a vicious circle. We have to win the ABA league in order to play in the Euroleague and then for example you have a situation that we play a game against Real Madrid, it’s on Thursday, and then on Sunday, we play against Borac in Cacak. And that game in Cacak is more important for us than the game against Madrid. That doesn’t make sense.
We are here with the Euroleague for – I don’t know – 10 years and we grew as a club and honestly, I think we deserve a spot and to have this certainty of knowing that we’re going to play for some years. We should have a guaranteed place for some time.
Do you feel that this is urgent for all the teams that are in the same situation? You must have if not a closed league, then the security of playing in the EuroLeague long term in order to plan like this.
It’s hard to plan anything otherwise. If you want to sign a player and I call his agent, the first question is “Where are you playing next year”. When the final decision is made is usually in July, we are already late on the market then you have to overpay the players to come but we don’t have a huge budget. There are so many things that this uncertainty put us in a not good position and in the end we need to be competitive and we are competitive but I think that things can change as you said to have some security. Not a close league, but let’s get standards on the clubs. If you are like this and that, then you’re inside. Things can be improved on that front.
So the licenses should maybe be more long-term? Maybe not for one year but for three years?
From our side we’re going to do everything we can, we will try to increase the budget. Next year we will move to the bigger Stark arena and we will do whatever to show that we deserve the permanent place. And I think this year showed everybody that Belgrade deserves two teams.
Speaking about your budget, because that was talked about a lot all over Europe, first of all, I guess you are bound by the Financial FairPlay rules, you follow them and you consider them a fair system and secondly, what’s your explanation to the public asking how a team like Zvezda and also how a team like Partizan suddenly got this boost in their budgets?
From our side, speaking about the increase in the budget, when you look at it last year or the year before, we used all the money that we earned and that was the case for the last 10 seasons and we’re going to do it again.
At the end of the season and you will see that increase is not that huge, because when you look at our roster from the beginning with a rookie coach and everything it was nothing. Then people forget that we signed a new naming sponsor, Meridianbet, and we also kept our old sponsor (ed. note: mts) with the same amount of money. So this money helped us a lot and it didn’t fall from the sky.
You will see, we will go out with the numbers same as every year and you will see that our budget is at the low level of the EuroLeague teams. We just had luck in the situation with Vildoza and Campazzo, we reacted at the right time. And both of them had roles they never had. Facu never had this freedom, playing 40 minutes. Same with Luca. So it was also a good fit for them.
Right now which competition are you preparing for next season?
For EuroLeague. Everything that we do has to do with this. In our mind we are preparing for the Euroleague, we are planning to move to Stark Arena, we are already working on a different ticketing approach and then the players that we want to bring are going to be good, experienced players and of course with a core of Serbian players as always.
This is for us the most important part to have the core of the team, the heart of the team being domestic guys. It was also evident in this year’s Final Four, Real Madrid with a local core, Olympiacos also with the local players. I think that those players make a difference in the end because they feel the club. they feel the city. They feel everything in a different way than foreign players, which is normal in the end.