Ukrainian Clubs Drop Out Of VTB League

25 June 2014

BC Azovmash Mariupol, 2013-14 season
Dmytro Zabirchenko and his Azovmash team-mates will not return to the VTB League next season

BC Donetsk and Azovmash, the two clubs that have represented Ukraine in the VTB United League will be unable to participate in the regional league in the coming season, it emerged on Tuesday.

Azovmash is based in Mariupol, a city that just like Donetsk has experienced social unrest in recent months due to the political developments in Ukraine.

Earlier in June, the Board of FIBA Europe had taken the decision to relocate EuroBasket 2015 from Ukraine, precisely because of security concerns raised by the current political situation.

"Everyone knows perfectly well what's happening right now in Ukraine," the VTB League's outgoing president Sergey Ivanov said at his last press conference in this capacity, on Tuesday.

"That is why it's absolutely clear that Azovmash and Donetsk won't play [in the VTB League] next season.

"I'm sorry for both these clubs.

"Azovmash is a team that played in the VTB League Final Four last season.

"But it's obvious that right now Ukraine isn't able to think about basketball.

"We hope that the situation there stabilizes soon and that Ukrainian clubs can return to the league."

Neither of the two Ukrainian clubs managed to clinch a play-off spot in the VTB League this season but they both reached the semi-finals of the Ukrainian Superleague (defending champions Budivelnyik Kiyv went on to win the title).

However Azovmash and Donetsk might not be in as bad a position as Russian club Spartak St. Petersburg.

The historical club is facing a dire financial situation and its very existence is under serious threat right now.

"We will also not see Spartak next year," Ivanov said.

"The club might have a glorious past but there is no one right now to support it.

"In order to preserve the glorious name of Spartak the club's management has to seek other sponsors, but the VTB League cannot do anything to help them with that."

However not every announcement on Tuesday was about teams departing the VTB League, as clubs elsewhere are emerging with force and enthusiasm.

Finnish side Nilan Bisons could be about to make history, as they are close to becoming the first club from a Scandinavian country to join the VTB League.

"We already have five or six applications from clubs who are interested to join the competition," Ivanov revealed.

"Among them is a Finnish team, the Bisons.

"This club has presented a very serious application and, notably, is ready to play its home games at a big, modern arena in Helsinki."

Nilan had conquered the Finnish Korisliiga title two years in a row but abolished their crown this season as EuroChallenge side Kataja knocked them out in the play-off semi-finals.

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