Lithuanian MEP Antanas Guoga condemns the false accuses towards Euroleage calling it a basketball Cold War and sees the flaws in the new FIBA system. The concern regarding the conflicting scheduling of Euroleage clubs´ sessions and FIBA´s qualification tournaments for the basketball World Cup and the Olympics´20 was raised last week in the European Parliament, MEP Antanas Guoga press office informed.
Antanas Guoga
Antanas Guoga
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

A. Guoga criticizes the initiative of some MEPs to address the European institutions by letter which falsely accuses Euroleague commercial assets S.A. (ECA) in breach of EU antitrust laws. MEP A. Guoga supports Euroleague by emphasizing that the problem is extremely damaging for the basketball community and calls FIBA not to take decisions regarding the European basketball unilaterally before consulting Euroleague.

"I completely agree that there is a big problem at the moment related to the European basketball, a problem which concerns the whole basketball community. However, I am not convinced that Euroleague is solely to blame for the current situation", - in a letter to the colleagues at the European Parliament says MEP A. Guoga.

Lithuanian MEP reminds colleagues that historically Euroleague and FIBA have never faced the problem of overlapping schedules, until FIBA unilaterally decided on the new national team game "window" policy. Previously the World Cup and Olympic qualification tournaments were played exclusively during summertime, and 2017 is the first year that it will be split into 3 "windows" - November, February and June/July. He noted although this situation mostly concerns European basketball, the decision was made by FIBA International.

"There is an obvious flaw with this system", - A. Guoga notes, "As the world's strongest league, the NBA, where some of the best European players are signed (e.g. most of the Spanish national team) is in session during November and February." In addition, it also overlaps with the Euroleague schedule, which also boasts significant numbers of top players, yet of these two, only Euroleague is being forced by FIBA to release their players for the November and February window sessions.

A. Guoga is concerned that this situation causes serious trouble for the Euroleague clubs because they are mostly comprised of national team players, and at least 8 players must be registered for a Euroleague match. This system might put the clubs in a situation where they won't be able to play games and will have to pay penalties. Moreover, it might also be at risk of players' health.

"I do agree with Mrs. Maletič that national teams play an extremely important role and act as the pinnacle above any other competition, yet I do believe that clubs are also of paramount importance as they play a special role of their own in fostering European basketball", - A. Guoga added. "They are active throughout the year in various competitions, are responsible for the vast majority of basketball popularity, raise and foster new talents and pay the salaries of the players. It's the clubs that keep European basketball alive through the year so their opinion should matter", - the MEP said.

The new "windows" system does not convince the Euro-Parliamentarian for its efficiency. Even if Euroleague gives in and suffers all the losses related to this decision, national teams still won't be able to call on their NBA players during November and February "windows". Therefore, this problem would be extremely damaging to some of the national teams. "I think European institutions should be mediators instead of judges in this situation, helping our teams and FIBA to find common ground instead of forcing one position over another. Everybody is a loser in this basketball Cold War", - believes A. Guoga.

MEP A. Guoga's basketball profile

Mr. Guoga has been involved in the basketball for decades. He has knowledge in both national basketball team and the club level. Mr. Guoga was the national basketball team's manager from 2010 until 2012 and served as the Vice-President of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation until 2016. When Lithuania's national team failed to qualify for the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey directly and had to apply for a wild-card entry, he organised a support campaign for the team. The national team was consequently chosen for the tournament and moved on to win the bronze medal. Mr. Guoga also served as Lithuanian Olympic during the London Summer Olympics in 2012.

Mr. Guoga was a shareholder and president of the Lithuanian basketball club "Lietuvos rytas" in June-October 2017. The club was derided by international media after the highly offensive racist claims of the clubs' former president. Mr. Guoga made a decision to step in and buy the major share of "Lietuvos rytas". This step helped the club to save the position in the EuroCup. The financial injections by the new shareholder helped the club during the most difficult period.

Mr. Guoga has deeper knowledge in basketball business rather than playing it. He played basketball in the amateur community basketball team "Varpas" back in Melbourne in early nineties. He believes that basketball is in the hearts and souls of all Lithuanians.

Currently Mr. Guoga serves as a Lithuanian MEP and is mainly involved in a number of Digital Single Market topics. Being an entrepreneur himself, Guoga works for better conditions for European businesses, especially in the technology sector. Before focusing on politics, Guoga was better known by his poker-playing alias 'Tony G'. MEP Guoga is a committed philanthropist.

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