Serbian team Partizan Belgrade is on the verge of bankruptcy. Despite making millions in the transfer of players. Where is that money?
The financial problems of Partizan started 13 years ago when they had to borrow 1.3 million Euro from the Marfin Bank. More loans followed, and in the meantime, the debt has grown to over 7 million Euro.
9.3 Million earned in transfers
But, during those 13 years Partizan earned 9,3 million Euro in the transfer of the following players:
2.000.000 Novica Velickovic
1.500.000 Kosta Perovic
1.300.000 Bogdan Bogdanovic
1.000.000 Aleks Maric
1.000.000 Jan Vesely
1.000.000 Joffrey Lauvergne
500.000 Nikola Pekovic
350.000 Uros Tripkovic
300.000 Luka Bogdanovic
300.000 Vladimir Lucic
50.000 Vule Avdalovic
There is no trace of this money on the foreign currency bank account of Partizan, nor did the bank debt shrink. On the contrary. That debt increased. This means that the money “went through other channels.”
Which “other channels?” That’s a question everybody is asking. Not only several banks who borrowed Partizan money but also other creditors like the Serbian tax authority wonder where the money is. Former players and coaches are asking the same. Some of them have a FIBA arbitration award in hand.
Is basketball following football?
But there is more to the story of the above transfer deals. Why would a team pay a 2 million Euro transfer fee for a player who is not even an NBA caliber? On top of the 2 million transfer fee, his annual salary had to be paid as well. For this type of money, a European team can get almost any player they want. One-third of the NBA players this season makes less than 2 million per year. There are many questions but no answers. In football, there is an entire industry around the transfers of players. Teams around the globe live or die by the money they make on the transfer of players. It goes like this:
Player John Doe has an annual salary of $ 400.000 with club A. He has a multi-year contract that expires in 5 months from now. Club B offers the player a raise in salary. From $ 400.000 to 500.000. But they don’t want to wait five months until his contract expires. They want him now. No problem. Club A asks a transfer amount of 10 million from club B, and the deal is done.
Everybody looks the other way
Why pay 10 million when you can have the player for FREE in five months from now? How come that there is such a discrepancy between the salary of the player and the transfer amount? Why does the transfer money have to make a world tour around multiple offshore bank accounts? What’s the reason that a zillion middlemen are always involved in these type of transfers? Why is it always problematic to find the transfer money in the books and tax statements?
We all know the answers. But we also know that football is the biggest sideshow on earth. It is bigger than sports. High profile politicians are involved and powerful billionaires with inflated egos. Entire countries have their identity and reputation at stake. That’s why everybody looks the other way. That’s why we tolerate things in football that we would never tolerate in real life.
Are football-type transfers now making their entry into the basketball market? Multi-year contracts are extremely rare in European basketball. Nevertheless, we see an increase in the transfer money being paid and football-type deals.
Partizan blames everybody
Partizan can’t explain the mystery of the transfer money but instead is pointing fingers. The club blames the growing debt on astronomical interest rates (up to 18%) and is angry at the bank for not willing to negotiate a settlement. Partizan feels mistreated and claims that city rival Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) gets away with murder because of preferential treatment by banks and politicians. Former Partizan coach Dusko Vujosevic constantly claims that Crvena Zvezda is subsidized by the Belgrade municipality. But that is denied by Slavko Gak (representing the municipality of Belgrade). In a statement, he said that Partizan had received 1.3 million Euro in funding which is THREE times more than it’s city rival Crvena Zvezda.
From glory days to a fight for survival
In 1992 Partizan won the Euroleague and in 2009/2010 qualified for the Final Four. The club has won numerous Adriatic Leagues titles, Serbian Championships, and also Yugoslavian titles and the Korac Cup in the past. But since then, the club is going through turbulent times. Since 2015 they have had five different coaches. This season started with two losses, there has been a coaching change, and no less than eight import players have worn the club uniform. The Partizan fans (Grobari, which means grave diggers) are among the most passionate in the world and their reach goes far beyond the Serbian borders. But a few weeks ago they made international headlines when a power struggle between two fractions erupted at a football game and turned into a bloody fraternal fight. Partizan fans from several countries were involved in this scandal. Despite all this, the club still has a theoretic chance to qualify for the Adriatic League playoffs this season.