Friday Frappé: Will Olympiacos ever return to the Basket League?
In this week’s edition of the Friday Frappé, AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris looks at the future of Olympiacos in Greek basketball and the ‘double standard’ in dealing with officiating in football and basketball...
The 2018/2019 Basket League season has been in the books for a few months but the results of last season are still having a massive impact on the Greek basketball scene.
Olympiacos were relegated at the end of last season after the Piraeus outfit forfeited their playoff series against Panathinaikos; this after previously forfeiting the second half of their Greek Cup semifinal in protest of Greek officials.
It was after the scenes at the OAKA Olympic Indoor Hall and the forfeiture of the Cup semifinal that Olympiacos insisted they would not face their archrivals unless international referees were appointed for the match. The motion was ultimately rejected and Olympiacos followed through with their guarantee and ultimately forfeited the final regular season clash with Panathinaikos in the final weeks of the season.
Pressure mounted on both Olympiacos and Panathinaikos to find a resolution with the help of the Greek government and the Hellenic Basketball Federation, but ultimately no solution could be reached before the two sides were set to clash in the Basket League playoffs.
The series resulted in a forfeit win for Panathinaikos before the Trifylli ultimatel dispatched Peristeri and Promitheas en route to the club’s third-straight title.
Now it seems that Panathinaikos’ run could continue for quite a while after it was revealed that their biggest rivals might not be all that keen on a return to the top flight.
Olympiacos this week announced that the club will sport a developmental team in the second-tier of A2 Basket League – seemingly giving up on promotion back to the top flight.
Olympiacos, who announced the launch of “Olympiacos B – Development Team” for all domestic competitions including the A2 Basket League and the Greek Cup, will use a completely different roster domestically than the roster that will compete under the name “Olympiacos BC” in the EuroLeague.
While the Hellenic Basketball Federation (EOK) has not recognized Olympiacos’ request of distinguishing Olympiacos B from the roster that will feature in the EuroLeague, there is no doubting that Olympiacos appear to have all but checked-out of domestic basketball.
Although Olympiacos’ relegation to the second-tier was legal, the key reason the club’s request of foreign referees for derby clashes with Panathinaikos was denied was because the league’s rules were not to be renegotiated midseason. No traction was made on that request during the offseason, and while a meeting between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos is far from a guarantee in the Greek Cup, the lack of progress speaks to a double standard in dealing with refereeing controversies.
The long history of controversial refereeing decisions in football was addressed by appointing foreign referees for derby matches in recent seasons, and for the most part derby matches have come and gone without incident – certainly not to the level that hampered Greek football in years gone by. So why isn’t that mindset brought into basketball?
Fans of rival clubs haven’t been so accepting of Olympiacos’ request, but controversial calls haven’t just been a trend during Olympiacos’ clashes with Panathinaikos. There were numerous incidents just last season related to controversial calls during games, with the aftermath of some of these leading to crowd trouble in arenas across the country.
Surely it’s not possible to appoint foreign referees for all games, but in the games that are already hotly contested and at-risk for conflict, why wouldn’t the Basket League take the proactive approach of appointing foreign officials?
The answer remains unknown for the time being, but it might become clearer as Greek basketball begins to realize the massive hole the game will have without the biggest derby clash on the calendar.
While Olympiacos and Panathinaikos will clash at least twice on the EuroLeague stage, the gulf in class between the players Panathinaikos and the likes of PAOK and AEK can attract will take away from the competition level of Greek basketball.
It’s not only the Basket League that will feel this impact as Olympiacos will, if not already, feel this impact as the club will feel disjointed considering the fragmented roster David Blatt will have to manage on the homefront and in Europe.