By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The fate of the EuroLeague season will be decided tomorrow, and the chances of the season resuming at this point seem slim. The players are against the plan, most coaches agree with them, and even the clubs are divided.
All concerns are justified. Nobody thinks that playing sports without fans during the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be easy, the risk of injuries is high, and even financially for some clubs, returning to the court might not make much sense.
Plus, one of the main concerns from the players and the coaches’ side is that the playing level of the competition would not be what someone would expect, and we will end up having bad games that would hurt the reputation of the league.
However, if there’s a health protocol that can guarantee the safety of everyone involved and if the financial gains can help the clubs recover some of their losses after the season’s suspension, then the arguments for the season to continue are also valid.
The real issue is that this pandemic revealed a level of mistrust between players and their employers. Contrary to the situation in the NBA, where the players are among the biggest advocates of returning to action, in Europe it’s quite the opposite.
That’s not on the players. Despite the progress made in recent years, timely payments remain an issue even at the top level of Europe, and there’s no safety net, a pension program, or anything that secures an athlete after his playing days, or in case of a grave injury.
The only notable exception on that front is the Spanish ABP and its pension program.
While the NBPA has a strong voice in any decision taken for the NBA, ELPA specifically and other players union in Europe at this point have practically just a consultatory role and not real power.
On the other hand, with the public starving for professional sports and pro leagues in Europe returning to action, getting back on the court can provide a boost to the league and will help the players secure a more financially robust environment for next season.
It’s a very tough act to balance and the bottom line is simple. The players should be heard and they should be an active part of the decision-making process. If they felt that this was the case, maybe their opinion would be different.
Now, even if the season returns, which seems like a longshot, many players whose contract expires this summer, especially not local talent, would probably skip the end of the season tournament and nobody can really blame them.