The famous Lithuanian club Zalgiris Kaunas has a very good start this season. They ended in first place in Group C of the Euroleague, qualified for the Top-16 while remaining unbeaten in the Lithuanian championship, and are in 2nd place in the VTB League after CSKA Moscow.
Nevertheless, there seem to be some financial problems.
The owner of the club, Vladimir Romanov, who saved Zalgiris from bankruptcy in 2009, now has asked for financial support from the fans via the official website of the club.
“I am very happy with the first place in Group C of the Euroleague and that we have a chance to win the title. However, for that kind of success a fund is needed in order to pay the salaries and bonuses of the players. Everybody is talking about how much they love the club and that they will sponsor the team, but in reality nobody is doing anything at all.
There is a way to solve the financial problems: Every fan could invest a minimum of 100 Litas (€ 29 or $ 38). Otherwise we have to start selling players and give up the fight for the top spots.
A couple of weeks ago we started the project ‘We are Zalgiris’ which is open to all those who want to help the club. All that needs to be done is to wire some money to the account of the club. Zalgiris is part of the Lithuanian culture and everybody in Lithuania should help in order to save such a treasure.”
Romanov is a controversial figure. In 2009 he stated that he intended to participate in the elections to become President of Lithuania. The Lithuanian electoral commission however, advised Romanov that he was ineligible because he was born in Russia.
As the owner of Zalgiris Basketball club he made numerous controversial decisions, including sacking head coaches one by one, most famously firing head coach Darius Maskoliūnas in the middle of LKL final series. Players had to draw their own tactic schemes and make substitutions, which resulted in crucial losses to rivals Lietuvos Rytas in decisive games.
Before the 2010/2011 season started, Zalgiris had signed several high profile players and a new head coach as well. In the first half of the season Zalgiris was consistent and successful. But, after the most positive start in years, Vladimir Romanov once again shocked the entire country by firing Serbian head coach Aco Petrovic, which resulted in a series of losses and the decision of Slovenian/Bosnian player Mirza Begić to leave the team.
During the 2011/2012 season, Romanov fired two other Žalgiris coaches; Greek head coach Elias Zouros and his assistant. Zouris started a FIBA arbitration case against the club and won.
Who woulda thought: The financial crisis hit Lithuania..