Monaco GM Oleksiy Yefimov discusses team's budget, possible NBA partnership and new arena

Giorgos Kyriakidis
Staff Writer
2022-05-13 09:45


Credit: AS Monaco/Direction de la Communication
Credit AS Monaco/Direction de la Communication

Roughly 70 minutes before the decisive Olympiacos Piraeus - AS Monaco Game 5 tipped off, fans at the Peace and Friendship Stadium had already started to pack the stands. Kevin Durant and Emma Stone were still on their way to the stadium, but neither of the two playoff contenders paid attention to what was going on outside the court. 

In front of the guest team's bench, Monaco's General Manager Oleksiy Yefimov was discussing the details of the upcoming game with his associates. One of the issues to be resolved was making sure that all delegation members had been allocated their respective seats. 

As Monaco players exited the locker room for their last pre-game warmup, Yefimov didn't look nervous at all. 

Player of the Game
Shaquielle  McKissic
EFF
24
Shaquielle McKissic
Points 18
Accuracy 6-7
Rebounds 2
Assists 2

"I'm proud of those guys, of the organization and the Principality of Monaco," the Ukrainian executive told BasketNews.

"The fact that we reached the playoffs was something outstanding, especially taking into consideration that our four victories against Russian clubs didn't count. We also secured our future in the EuroLeague."

As one of the cornerstones in Monaco's front office since 2014, Oleksiy Yefimov has propelled the Roca Team to unprecedented heights. At only 36, he's by far the youngest GM on any EuroLeague team. It would be unthinkable to rank Monaco among Europe's top teams five years ago. 

"I will remind you one thing," Yefimov continued. "On September 22, 2021, we still didn't have permission to host games in Monaco."

That was the first reminder that EuroLeague isn't anywhere close to the EuroCup, despite the huge leaps forward that Monaco have made over the past two seasons.

Credit AS Monaco/Direction de la Communication

Yefimov says the biggest differences between the two competitions are in the schedule and in the way the available budget should be spent.

"In EuroLeague, the schedule is tighter and the level of physicality higher. When you play against those teams, they will capitalize on any mistake that you make," Yefimov said.

"Logistically, the most important decision we made was to spend less money on players in order to travel with a charter," he continued. "In the end, our investment paid off. Especially taking into consideration the location of French teams, it would have been impossible to maintain this rhythm without a charter."

If Game 5 in Piraeus was a final in its own right, Monaco had already played not one but three finals. The first one was lost in 2018 when AEK Athens beat them in the BCL Final Four. The next two were victorious, as Monaco swept the EuroCup final series against UNICS Kazan to win their first-ever trophy. 

Yefimov admits that it's hard for him to work out a logical explanation. 

"It's only eight years since we turned into a professional team, coming from the second division. The main reason is the passionate people who backed the project and learned from their mistakes. That's how experience works.

We had huge support from the local community, the government, and Prince Albert II himself. He likes basketball, and he used to attend basketball games with his father."

Credit AS Monaco/Direction de la Communication

As basketball's popularity continues to grow in the Principality and their European journey gained considerable momentum, financial resources are necessary to keep the project alive and kicking.

In 2014, the Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist Sergey Dyadechko became the President of Monaco Basket.

Almost eight years later, in January 2022, the torch was passed from Dyadechko to Aleksej Fedoricsev. With a firm handshake, the former president and his successor sealed the agreement, which ratified the acquisition of 46.4% of the club's shares by Fedoricsev, making him its majority shareholder. 

Fedoricsev, 66, is the founder of Fedcom, the world leader in grain and fertilizers, with an estimated personal fortune of $1 billion. His company had been the shirt sponsor for AS Monaco football club for more than 25 years.

Born in Russia but now holding only the Hungarian citizenship, the financial tycoon previously owned Dynamo Moscow and FC Rostov football clubs. 

In any case, Dyadechko has made clear that he'll keep investing in the team as a minor shareholder, despite the fact that the last word belongs to Mr. Fedoricsev.

Yefimov, a graduate of the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute, made one of the greatest connections of his career back in 2007. Having worked as the press officer and then the marketing director at BC Kyiv, the giants of Ukrainian basketball at the time, he was offered a job as their manager. That's where he met Monaco's current coach, Sasa Obradovic.

When the Serbian tactician moved to Donetsk the following year, he proposed Yefimov to Dyadechko as a GM. 

"Mr. Dyadechko opened a new chapter in the history of AS Monaco. When the team was in the third division, he started investing in it. Then, he became the president and brought the club to the EuroCup title," Yefimov summed up.

On the other hand, Fedoriscev was the title sponsor of AS Monaco football team for 26 consecutive years, which is the second-longest sponsorship period in European football's history.

"He's also someone who has contributed to the Principality for a long period of time," Yefimov stressed. "I'm glad that even though he played football professionally, he grew to love basketball so much that he's 100% focused on the Roca Team."

Monaco GM is positive that Fedoricsev will stick around for a long time.

"He has always had a long-term vision. I hope that he'll stay at least for as many years as the ones he spent with the football team."

Credit AS Monaco- Direction de la Communication / Manuel Vitali

Despite not having one of EuroLeague's biggest budgets, Monaco almost doubled their expenses during their maiden season at the highest level.

The club started the 2021-22 campaign with a 14-million euro budget, which is expected to increase next year. How much? That's still to be determined, Yefimov maintains.

"We will try our best to increase it, taking into consideration that the Financial Fair Play rule will change next year. This means that only half of the budget can be contributed by the shareholders, so we need to earn the other half.

For playoffs, we could allow a sponsorship with a crypto-currency platform. We're trying to explore new digital markets."

The Ukrainian says Monaco only rank 13th-14th among EuroLeague clubs in terms of budget.

"From what I've learned from open sources, only ALBA Berlin, Panathinaikos, and Crvena Zvezda are beneath us. In past summers, we were having a headache because we couldn't keep our players after successful seasons," he said.

But this season is no different. It can even be much worse, considering how great season players like Mike James, Dwayne Bacon, and Donta Hall are having. Yefimov thinks that the most important thing is that all of them are super happy being in Monaco as a place, a city, and an organization.

"I believe that they will first listen to us before they make any decisions."

Monaco is going to play another season in the EuroLeague. Can the up-and-coming club make long-term plans?

"All that we want is to show to EuroLeague and to the other clubs that the league can benefit from having Monaco. At the same time, one of our main goals was to show and prove that we're ready as an organization to stay at this level."

Initially lacking a court of 5.000 seats, the minimum required by EuroLeague standards, AS Monaco seemed to be condemned to play their first-ever Euroleague games at the Azur Arena in Antibes. Things changed when the organizing authority granted them an exemption to use the Gaston-Medecin arena, which was renovated.

The capacity of the arena located in the Louis II Stadium, which was originally 2.840 seats, is now 4.090. Yefimov confirmed that the plan is for the club to make use of the existing installation, albeit with the addition of another 1.000 seats to fully comply with the requirements. 

"During the summer, another renovation will take place that will increase capacity to 5.000. So, there won't be any conflict with EuroLeague's regulation," he said.

"Capacity is the main problem, but also the lighting will improve. We're also working on the new arena project. We realize that if we have a chance to stay in the EuroLeague long-term, that's the way to go."

The plans to build a new arena that will host AS Monaco are not exactly news. In October 2021, Yefimov had told BasketNews' Donatas Urbonas: 

"Finding a place to build an arena is difficult, but it could be somewhere near Monaco. For example, the famous Rolex Monte Carlo tennis tournament is played in France. Maybe we could find a location that's next to us. We need to do deep studies. It's not easy to find a place. It's also about the entire infrastructure around it."

Seven months after those words were spoken, Oleksiy Yefimov is sure of only one thing - that the new arena will be built. 

"Can you give me 12 months to tell you something concrete?" he asked.

"I don't want to sound unrealistic. Our proposed budget for the arena renovation has been approved by the government. I know that it will happen."

On the occasion of Kevin Durant visiting Monaco and Athens to watch some EuroLeague basketball and meet friends, the competition definitely got some extra exposure. That was particularly evident in the reactions under KD's 'Apocalypse' Twitter post, depicting Olympiacos' fans using flares and firecrackers to celebrate their team's win.

Yefimov is not sure whether Durant or any other NBA superstar, for that matter, can increase EuroLeague's visibility. 

"I'm not an expert on that. His coming here gave some good exposure to the whole series. Not only by his presence but by the way he was involved and entertained."

Of course, Durant came to Europe as Mike James' guest. However, potential cooperation with the NBA presents a field of exploration that no European team would like to miss out on. 

"If you ask any EuroLeague team this question, the answer will be the same. Everyone's trying to see what the possibilities are," Yefimov said.

"It would sound strange if I said that we're not, but it would also sound not serious if I said that we already have something. It's too early to talk about that."

Since the war in Ukraine broke out last February, Monaco have adopted a clear stance.

"We were the only team in the French League to not make any public statement on this. Our main goal is to help, and we're doing it discreetly," Yefimov stressed.

Aleksej Fedoricsev repatriated many of his Ukrainian collaborators to settle in Tuscany. Vice president Dyadechko, Yefimov, and assistant coach Sergii Gladyr have all their families settled in Ukraine, while all the Ukrainians of Monaco have invested in humanitarian aid. A collection point was set up in front of the Gaston-Medecin.

"It's a very special situation for me because my parents still live in Ukraine," Yefimov pointed out.

Credit Edu Candel/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

"I think we made the right decision and presented it the right way. Everything that came to the media wasn't from us. We're representing Monaco, and we support the government's stance. Don't forget that one-third of the club (33.3%) belongs to the government."

As the season is drawing to a close and the Final Four is approaching, no one can be sure whether we're going to see any Russian teams in the EuroLeague next season. Yefimov does have an opinion, but since he's not going to be asked by the ECA to vote on the issue, he prefers to remain quiet. 

"I don't want to answer because no matter what I say, it's not going to have any impact on the situation. We're not a club with a permanent license, and that's why I can't speak.

If we were involved in the voting, it would be logical for me to explain my position. So, I'd rather avoid making any statements."



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