General Assembly Meets In Slovenia

23 May 2005

The General Assembly of FIBA Europe 2005 met in Portorose Slovenia on 20th – 22nd May.

A total of 123 delegates attended the General Assembly, representing 47 of FIBA Europe’s 50 National Federations.

Secretaries General Meeting

The General Assembly began with the meeting of the Secretaries General of all national federations, the first time that such a meeting has taken place.

“The goal of this meeting was really to get a discussion going among the federations,” said FIBA Europe President Mr. George Vassilakopoulos.

“The General Assembly gives the opportunity for the federations to hear from us about FIBA Europe’s activities over the past year. However, it is not traditionally a forum for discussion due to the large number of delegates in attendance. That is the idea of the meeting of the Secretaries General, to create a forum where we can talk about the issues currently facing basketball. I think that is something that we really achieved with this first meeting.”

The Secretaries General discussed the following issues.

3-on-3 Basketball

It was agreed by all federations that 3-on-3 basketball is an excellent tool for promoting interest and participation in basketball competition, and many federations are already operating successful programmes in this field.

However, there is currently no unified set of rules, guidelines for organising competitions or official European tournaments.

A commission was put together with representatives of the federations of Russia, Spain, Italy, Greece, Hungary and Slovenia. The Commission’s mandate will be to produce a unified set of rules and guidelines that can be used around Europe by all National Federations.

Anti-Doping Education

Although doping is not a major problem in basketball, educating players against the dangers of using drugs remains a priority for FIBA Europe.

FIBA Europe will conduct anti-doping seminars for team doctors at the upcoming European Championships for U18 men and women. If the programme proves successful, it will be extended to all youth tournaments in 2006.

Basketball Centers

The Secretaries General further discussed the prospect of creating centers of basketball around Europe. These centers would be existing complexes that have the necessary basketball facilities, hotels and transport connections and would be named official FIBA Europe centers. They would then be used as regional centers for hosting tournaments, seminars, clinics and any other basketball-related activities.

Future Meetings

It was agreed that the Secretaries General meeting would become an annual fixture before the General Assembly.

Board of FIBA Europe and General Assembly

The Board of FIBA Europe and General Assembly met on 21-22 May.

The National Federation representatives received updates from FIBA Europe on all activities since May 2006, including competitions, marketing, event organisation, finance and promotion.

Mr. Vassilakopoulos opened the meeting with a speech covering FIBA Europe’s activities and successes over the past 3 years. He emphasized FIBA Europe’s continued commitment to conducting its affairs with credibility, dignity, transparency, efficiency and consistency.

Mr. Vassilakopoulos touched on many of the issues facing FIBA Europe today such as relations with ULEB, sport’s social role in Europe, the regulation of player agents and player transfers, the inclusion of the specificity of sport in the proposed European Union constitution, relations with the NBA and WNBA and FIBA Europe’s plans to assist its smaller National Federations.

Mr. Vassilakopoulos finished by expressing his happiness with FIBA Europe’s achievements since 2002, the continued unity in European basketball and its future prospects.

FIBA Europe Secretary General Mr. Nar Zanolin and Sports Director Mr. Kosta Iliev made extensive reports to the delegates.

In addition, presentations were also made by the Presidents of the Legal Commision (Mr. Marek Palus), Youth Commission (Mr. Asterios Zois), Competitions Commission (Mr. Sergey Chernov), Finance Commission (Mr. Jan Berteling), Technical Commission (Mr. Valdu Suurkask) Women’s Commission (Mr. Alexander Boshkov), Commissioner for Small Countries (Mr. John Goncalves) and Secretary General of the European Wheelchair Basketball Association (Mr. Ron Coppenrath).

Year of Women’s Basketball

Women’s Commission member Ms. Esther Wender expounded on the concept of the 2006 Year of Women’s Basketball in a presentation to the delegates.

The objective of this project is to increase the promotion of women’s basketball in Europe and to help the National Federations with raising media awareness, sponsor interest and participation numbers in their countries.

The Year of Women’s Basketball will begin in 2006 and culminate in the 2007 Eurobasket Women in Italy. FIBA Europe will appoint a full time staff officer to co-ordinate and oversee all activities of this project with the National Federations.

Eurobasket Men and Women

Mr. Predrag Bogosavljev, Director General of the Eurobasket 2005 Organising Committee and Executive Director Ms. Snja Laban from Serbia & Montenegro updated the delegates on the plans for the event. They highlighted the extensive promotional campaigns that are currently running in Serbia & Montenegro, as well as the side events which will take place around Eurobasket 2005, such as an art exhibition, international coaching seminar and a symposium of sports medicine.

Mr. Emir Turam, International Relations Director from the Turkish Basketball Federation, presented plans for Eurobasket Women which will take place in the cities of Izmir, Bursa and Ankara.

Mr. Turam explained the objective of the event as not only organising a successful championship, but creating a lasting legacy for women’s basketball in Turkey.

Referees

FIBA Europe Referee Co-Ordinator Mr. Miguel Betancor kept the participants up to date with the developments in referee education. Education is conducted primarily through the referee web site, which was established in 2004.

As well as the web site, referee tutors and instructors have been given an increased role with the direct education of referees, ensuring that all officials have consistent feedback from FIBA Europe’s referee department.

Mr. Betancor presented the young referee project, which will identify 50 of Europe’s top talents and fast track them into the top level of officiating in Europe in the next 2 years.

Guest Speakers

Mr. Sarunas Marciulionis, Mr. Sasha Volkov and Mr. Jiri Zednicek all addressed the National Federations. Mr. Marciulionis presented a report on his basketball academy in Lithuania, Mr. Volkov talked about relations with the NBA and Mr. Zednicek presented the findings on a survey conducted over the past year on the development of women’s basketball in Europe.

“We have had a productive 3 days here in Slovenia,” summarised Mr. Vassilakopoulos.

“The National Federations have received a lot of information, which is good, because it shows that FIBA Europe is active in so many different areas.” The federations have also had a chance to express their opinion through the Secretary Generals meeting, and I think this has been a valuable addition to our agenda.”

I would like to thank the Slovenian Basketball Federation for hosting us in the beautiful town of Portorose and I hope that we can continue our good work into 2006 and the next General Assembly.”

Transcript of the speech of Mr. Vassilakopoulos

Dear friends,

A great Greek poet, the Nobel-prize winner Odysseas Elytis, says in one of his poems that “Time is the fast shadow of the birds”. This verse is indeed exact and wise. The time elapsed since our last General Assembly in Prague has passed very fast – fortunately though, it has passed in a very positive and productive manner.

During this last season and in conjunction with the two previous seasons (2002-2003 and 2003-2004), FIBA Europe has produced a huge amount of work and a great and unique achievement. Without any exaggeration or arrogance, I can affirm that it is really difficult to find anything comparable in the historic course of the various sports bodies of our continent: indeed, FIBA Europe has successfully managed not only to survive, but also to become a very strong, solid and self-sufficient body. Our successful activity covers an impressive number of complex and sensitive areas and issues such as organisational, legal, financial, technical, sporting, social and political aspects of European Basketball. We have settled our staff issue, with an ever increasing number of staff members in our recently extended offices. And of course, I must underline the continuous progress in our relations and cooperation with other bodies of our sport and of other sports at the level of our continent, as well as the opening of channels of consultations and cooperation with the EU bodies that are responsible for sport.

All this has been achieved thanks to the coordinated and planned work of our central services, the cooperation with FIBA World, the active and precious participation of all the Board members and the various Commissions, without exceptions or distinctions, and certainly the decisive contribution of the National Federations. I do not need to remind that National Federations were, are and will be the basis of our organisational structure.

Our work is a collective work, and each one of you here has made his or her own personal contribution. From my part, I feel the need to say a very sincere thank you to all of you.

Dear colleagues,

The Presidents of the various Commissions will soon present to you all the details regarding the activities of their Commissions in the past season. I must stress that I have an excellent cooperation with them, I frequently attend their meetings and see how efficiently they elaborate their various decisions and proposals. Also, our extremely meticulous, hard working and efficient Executive Director, who following a FIBA Central Board decision in Kuala Lumpur has from now to bear the title of Secretary General, will also inform you, with the assistance of the staff of our various sections and services. He will give you all the details that will help you make a complete idea on the functioning and acting of one of the most reliable and financially healthy sports bodies, our FIBA Europe.

As regards my personal intervention, I would like to start by reminding once again the framework of principles and values that I have often mentioned in the past and which is determined by our common wish and aim for
CREDIBILITY – DIGNITY – TRANSPARENCY – EFFICIENCY – CONSISTENCY.

I will try to give you in concise a way the information, the details but also my personal opinion on a series of issues. We have already resolved many problems. However, as it is normal in our society and particularly in the area of sport that evolves every day with a particular impetus, some other problems have emerged in the meantime while others are emerging now. As always, we analyse, assess and prepare their solution. In this respect, I have the privilege and pleasure to submit to you some thoughts and make a number of announcements that may define and mark a new perspective for European basketball.

However, in order to be more concise and easy to understand, I will expose these issues, thoughts and proposals in a series of chapters.

1. Relations between FIBA and FIBA Europe

Throughout the past year I tried to keep you continuously informed on all issues. This was made by transmitting documents and letters but also through oral interventions during the Board or the Commissions’ meetings. So, I believe that you are all aware that our relations with FIBA have passed through a series of fluctuations, of ups and downs. Many of them were normal and expected, since the presence – and a quite strong one – of a new member in the family, provokes not only the joy of the enlargement of the family but also a series of problems of ACCEPTANCE – ROLE–ADAPTATION and CO-EXISTENCE.

Quite frankly, I must admit that our relations have passed through disagreements, tensions, oppositions and confrontations on crucial issues such as the issues of the structure, the functioning, the recognition of the role and the scope for autonomous action of continental Federations. At the end, thanks to the responsible attitude and the restraint shown by both sides and of course under the pressure of the great and indispensable common goal which is our UNITY, we are today all together, we have agreed on a common code of understanding and cooperation, we speak the same language and under the guidance of the Patriarch (you see, as orthodox Christians we do not have a Pope) of the world basketball family – our Secretary General Emeritus, Mr Borislav Stankovic – we go ahead with a common programme and a common system and the slogan “Basketball always better, always higher”.

The Central Board meeting in Kuala Lumpur on 4-5 December 2004 was an historical meeting. The decisions taken there, after an animated but high level and very constructive debate have laid the foundations for the functioning of FIBA with a long-term horizon!! In this respect, I would like to stress the decisive contribution of the FIBA Secretary General, Patrick Baumann, who is among us today.

2. Relations between FIBA Europe and ULEB

It also known that after a long series of sometimes sterile and unnecessary discussions, we have reached, with the mediation of FIBA, an agreement with Uleb. This agreement was signed by all parties on 3 November 2004 in Geneva.

The text of the agreement has been made public and distributed, so I am sure that it is known to everybody.

The agreement was received with a particular relief by practically all those who love and serve our sport, since it gives the hope that it may lead to better days for European Basketball.

It is obvious that the agreement of 3 November 2004 does not resolve all the problems. It has created though a framework where the two parties, respecting each other, can discuss, propose and adopt mutually acceptable solutions.

However, to be sincere, the road ahead of us in this respect will not be smooth nor easy. This road has many curves, many steep slopes, uphill and downhill, it passes through dangerous crossroads. This is why we need to remain calm and show patience and flexibility, keep a responsible attitude, and above all maintain a continuous dialogue, while always respecting both the letter and the spirit of the agreement.

In this respect, I must say that the recent proposals by Euroleague to the Clubs on the new corporate structure - I have here the relevant text for those of you who would be interested or curious - raise some questions, both for the sports and the administrative aspects.

Anyway, FIBA Europe and I personally will spare no effort to have this agreement applied and if possible extended. I do hope that the other side will also show a similar attitude and behaviour. European Basketball has suffered too much - and it still suffers - from its recent division.

3. Codification of terms and notions

In recent years, we have been observing a persistent confusion, due mainly to the deliberate efforts by some well known circles, to distort reality and downgrade the importance and the social role of the sports movement and of the bodies and persons who serve it. This situation creates today an imperative need for us to try to agree on a concrete content, a concrete definition of some notions that are used with different interpretations and provoke a confusion that in fact arranges only those who do not serve but exploit the relation between sport and society.

I have already developed this issue in the past, but I believe that now the time has come to proceed to the definition and codification of the various notions.

For instance, I do believe that in the year 2005 it is not possible for us to accept the erroneous, misleading, insulting and unfounded, from the sports point of view, distinction between "professionals and amateurs", "professional and amateur Basketball" or "professional and amateur clubs".

Back in the 1950s, this distinction may have had some importance, but rather social than financial. However, today it is very clear that sport is one and unique, and no adjectives may be added to it. The insistence by some to use this distinction is suspect and dangerous, since in fact they try to establish a link with the notions of reliability and responsibility. Thus, they try to persuade us that the term "professional" refers automatically to someone who is responsible and reliable, while the term "amateur" refers to someone who is not responsible nor reliable. This is a total distortion of reality, a full and unfair reversal of roles, acts and contributions. The real workers of sport are those who love it and serve it benevolently from various positions and roles. These people, the volunteers, who show a responsible attitude from both the sports and the social point of view, have a far greater sports and social responsibility than the "professionals" or "businessmen" as they like to call themselves.

Sport functions thanks to the co-existence of the voluntary contribution with the professional occupation. The volunteers co-exist and cooperate with all those who have a remunerated role in sport, such as players, coaches, administrative staff, etc.

This is why I would like to invite the President and the members of our Legal Commission, in cooperation with the Presidents of other Commissions and if possible some representatives of the EU and of course with the contribution of all those of you who would be interested, to start drafting a Code of the Sports Notions and Definitions. It is necessary for everybody to be aware of the reality The EU, the taxation systems, the state subsidies, the transfer system etc. are examples of terms and notions that we should define, mainly in relation to the way they affect sport.
 
This is an urgent and crucial issue, because, as the new political and financial environment in our continent evolves, it will give us the possibility to resolve many important issues and in fact put an end to situations where due to ignorance of reality we may harm ourselves and our sport.

4. Social isolation

According to the opinions of respected observers and analysts, technological innovation and geopolitical developments such as the globalisation, lead to the radical transformation of our society. In this transformation, the society of the group is replaced by the society of the individual.

Internet, e-mail, mobile telephones, the gradual abolition of national borders, all these create a new environment that focuses on the individual and his isolated activity. This unfortunately alters the human characteristics as they were known for centuries. It is precisely here that sport and the sports movement can play a determining role, it is here that sport and more specifically team sports are invited to bring out and support the human values and social cohesion and to give an answer to all those who try to confine us within our houses and within ourselves. Sport, as a social good should become the vector, the protagonist of a new campaign against social isolation.

Until now, sport has failed to control doping and thus to justify its ambition to be the main weapon in the fight against drugs of all kinds (Doping is a huge issue. We should revert to it some day and analyse it. Then you may be sure that we shall be able to determine who were those with a responsible and those with an irresponsible attitude towards sport and society). This is why I consider that a new field of activity, a new ambition for us must be that Basketball, as a team sport, will contribute decisively to the domination of the social logic of the WE over the I, of the collective activity over the isolation of the individual.

5. Intermediaries - agents

It is a common secret that the so-called "professional basketball" is handled in a very large degree by some visible and many invisible centres and individuals. These are known mainly as agents' offices, managers of players, coaches, etc. They have created a network with the participation of not only agents and intermediaries but also players, coaches, journalists, officials of the sports companies, etc.

This situation tends to create a quite polluted environment for sport. And this polluted environment, in conjunction with doping and betting, the other great diseases of our era, is giving to sport a very sick image. Suspicion and distrust are already spreading regarding the results of some competitions.

In football , the public prosecutors and the Courts have already quite a lot of work with cases such as the notorious Hoytzer case in Germany. Investigations on this or similar affairs are being made in Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria, etc.

So, before we find ourselves in situations of disrepute and unreliability, before our sport becomes a show like wrestling, we must intervene with consistency in three directions:

1. The Legal Commission should on one hand prepare urgently the regulations on the agents and on the other explore the possibilities for introducing, as soon as possible, the common uniform players’ contract that would include the terms of employment and transfer of players.

2. In cooperation with WADA, we should establish a more systematic control of the use of prohibited substances, and this not only during the competitions but at any moment throughout the year.

3. In cooperation with FIBA, we should take the necessary steps in order to push the EU to establish a special legal framework regarding betting on the sports results, in order to limit the existing impunity of those who try to influence and even control sports results or sports performances.

6. EU and free movement of players

At a preceding point I developed my opinions on the need for codification of the various notions used in our sport. I insisted that, in spite of the efforts of the various opportunists who pretend to be the only keen interpreters of the reality and try to disseminate false and distorting ideas, we must make clear that sport is not a simple financial act and it cannot be considered simply as a sort of commercial transaction. On the contrary, and according to the opinion that currently prevails, also within the E.U. bodies, sport is a process of a very wide social interest, sport cannot be used as commercially exploitable product but constitutes a social expression.

About one month ago, FIBA Europe had a very interesting meeting, made possible by the kind intervention of my dear friend the President of the Slovak Federation Pavol Barnak, with Mr Jan Figel, the EU Commissioner responsible for sport. At that meeting, where Nar Zanolin and Aris Zois also took part, we have raised and discussed these issues. Our request was that, in the framework of the European Constitution where sport is mentioned for the first time with a reference to its social and educational dimension, the European Commission should in its acts recognise the specificity of sport and the need for sport to receive a special attention and treatment and not to be handled as a simple economic activity.

It is in this direction that we shall focus our efforts, because if we attain this objective, then a series of major problems will be resolved. Among these problems I mention the fact that today players are treated as simple workers, on the basis of the Treaty of Rome provisions on the free circulation of workers. In the same spirit, sports clubs are treated as mere economic units – and this has fiscal, economic and administrative consequences that are contrary to the social dimension and contribution of sport.

Thus, the relation we have created, the channel we have opened is very important and I believe that our points and opinions have already been understood by the new Commissioner, who knows quite well his subject and has a quick understanding of the various issues –and I do believe that he will not have the same negative attitude as the former Commissioner. This dialogue will continue and I am sure that soon after the adoption of the European Constitution some positive moves will follow.

7. Identity of National and International Competitions

In parallel with all these, that prove that FIBA Europe is active and develops initiatives in all sectors, we are very much concerned by the issue of the transfer of players without any limits or limitations. This situation risks to have dramatic medium- and long-term consequences for Basketball. Besides the fact that it increases the maintenance costs of teams, it alienates the national sports features and is a growing obstacle for the national production process of attracting and forming new players.

I believe that we must start dealing with this problem. An since it affects the majority of the European National Federations, I consider that FIBA Europe is the most appropriate forum for discussion, exchange of ideas and best practices.

Therefore, I wish to open the discussion on this issue, i.e. of the too many foreign players in the rosters of clubs at national and international level. The floor is from now on open for you to express your opinions either here orally, or in written form in the near future. I would also like to ask you to allow me to form a Group of specialists which soon, and after collecting all the material with your opinions, will submit to the Board a concrete proposal to be discussed and then submitted for approval either at an extraordinary or at the regular General Assembly.

8. NBA - WNBA

At our General Assembly in Prague last year, I had made a long reference to the problems created by the way the NBA, through its practices, deals with European Basketball and its Institutional bodies and affects and the process formation of new players by European clubs and National Federations.

At that moment we had expressed our discontent for the fact that in recent years we witness a degrading phenomenon, for which practically all European National Federations and Clubs protest and they are right to protest: every year in June there is a wave of immigration of the most talented young players from Europe to the NBA.

Despite all this, and the fact that one year ago there had been some movement and a first exchange of views between the two parties, in the last months there is no serious evolution, and dialogue has lost its momentum. However, the problems remain and continue to grow and worsen.

In some minutes from now, my dear Sacha Volkov will present to you in detail some specific organisational aspects of the NBA as well as some aspects of the way it acts. From my part I would simply like to point out that our friends from the other side of the Atlantic are still the hostages of the myth and mythology they have created and spread regarding their organisation and their possibilities. Unfortunately, it seems impossible for them to admit the new reality created after Indianapolis and the Athens Olympic Games and adapt to it.

A few days ago I read in the newspapers that the NBA intended to hold some activities in Europe before the 2006-2007 season. They were to meet the Mayor of Rome for this purpose and what remained to be done was to work out the sponsorship and logistical issues and that this was to be their next step in testing the European market.

I asked the President of the Italian Federation, my friend Fausto Maifredi and he told me that he knew nothing about this issue. This is why, from this floor, I would like to say a few more words to our American friends:

"We appreciate you, we respect you and we want to cooperate with you. However, you must realise that in Europe there is an Institutionally structured organisation, there are the National Federations, there is FIBA Europe and you cannot pretend that you ignore their existence.

We do want dialogue and cooperation. We are ready, open and expecting you to come and discuss with a concrete agenda, which should include at least the following items:

1. W.N.B.A. and its impact on European competitions
2. the mode that the transfers are being made
3. the amount of the compensation given to the clubs that form the player
4. the setting (at last) of an age limit for the transfers
5. scouting and scouters and the problems they create for the productive life of the European clubs and young players.

9. Our financial situation

In this very important matter, I will be very brief. Our financial results are excellent. Just 3 years after the creation of FIBA Europe, without any assets, we have managed today not only to consider investing money for the future of basketball, but also to start considering the creation of a reserve! I simply invite you to follow the presentation of our Treasurer and share with me this pleasant feeling that FIBA Europe stands today very steadily on its feet and has no more financial fears for the future!

10. FIBA Europe's assistance to European National Federations

During my intervention at last year’s General Assembly, I had announced that I was sure that by 2006 the Board of FIBA Europe would be in a position to adopt and apply an ambitious programme of support for the weakest National Federations as well as a plan for financial and technical investment in countries that are important for basketball but whose activities and importance in terms of basketball is insufficient compared to their potential.

Today, FIBA Europe is already ready to start the preparation of these projects. Our finances are today in such good condition that allow us to start extending our action towards projects of assistance to our National Federations. And as I have always said, this assistance should have the form of investment, not of charity!

My intention is, once I will have checked with our Secretary General and our Treasurer the prospects for 2006 and secured an adequate part of our budget for this purpose, to propose to the Board to designate one or two special Working Groups that will elaborate the corresponding proposals, in order to have these programs launched by the season 2006-2007.

11. The sports activities of FIBA Europe

The coming months will be very exciting and full of activity for FIBA Europe. In fact, in the summer we shall have the first full edition of our new competition system for the youth. In July and August, in 15 European countries we shall have at least one official youth event.

September will be the month of the most important basketball competitions in Europe: it will be the turn of the National Teams, Men and Women, to play not only qualification games, but also the finals of the European Championships.

In October we shall start our new system of club competitions, Men and Women. Our top competitions there, the Eurocup Men and the Euroleague Women, are expected to be really better than everything that we have organised as FIBA Europe.

By the end of the year, we shall also have approved the master plan for the big event that we plan to organise from the autumn of 2006 until September 2007: the year of Women’s basketball.

All the details on these activities will be presented to you throughout our General Assembly by our Secretary General, our Sports Director and the appropriate Commissions’ Presidents.

CONCLUSION

In view of all this, and here I want to conclude my intervention, I must say that I am today a happy President. I am happy because of all the achievements that I just mentioned. I am happy because we are in such an excellent financial position that we can make projects and realise them. I am also happy because we have been able to preserve the unity of European basketball and of the FIBA family. I am happy because, all of us in FIBA Europe, we can see the future with optimism.


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