Lithuanian Basketball Federation suspends Vilnius club after FIBA declares war on Euroleague
The recent threats from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to ban 14 nations, including Lithuania, from Eurobasket 2017 have prompted a dramatic conflict within the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) and the Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LKF).
The LKF has opted to suspend Vilnius' Lietuvos Rytas, which recently signed a three-year contract with Euroleague Commercial Assets (ECA), the company that runs Euroleague and the Eurocup. The suspension will come into effect as soon as the club indicates whether or not it has an agreement with ECA.
This decision came in the wake of FIBA's announcement that its restriction against national teams whose clubs are involved in the Euroleague could be extended to a global scale, meaning that the national teams involved could be prevented from participating in the summer Olympic games in Rio this year.
“The expedited vote regarding these sanctions was held with respect to the changing situation and new information from FIBA regarding the danger that the Lithuanian men's team may lose its right to play in this year's Olympic games,” the LKF wrote in a press release.
“The LKF, as a member of FIBA, recommends that all clubs choose competitions organised by FIBA. But one thing has to be understood – basketball clubs are private organisations, so the federation's leadership legally cannot order or dictate what games they must play or avoid,” said Mindaugas Špokas, the secretary general of the LKF. “Besides, when discussing such important decisions, the president or secretary general's personal positions mean nothing. Such questions can only be decided by the entire basketball community – a complete LKF member conference.”
Last year, the Spanish and Lithuanian national teams earned themselves tickets to the Rio Olympics when they faced off for the Eurobasket gold (which went to Spain). Spain currently faces a similar threat from FIBA.
Any country that fails to comply with FIBA's demands will forfeit its tickets to other national teams.
Other countries whose national teams are facing disqualification include Italy, Serbia, Greece, Russia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Israel, Turkey, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia.
Serbian basketball coach Željko Obrodavič is the most high-profile coach to have openly resisted FIBA's sanctions. “It would be an interesting championship. It would be fun. Without Spain, Serbia, Greece, Croatia, Russia,” said Obrodavič.
The ECA and FIBA are currently locked in a bitter legal dispute over the future of Europe's basketball clubs, with both accusing each other of unfair competitive practices.