University of Tartu basketball team to rely on student players in future

Rector’s Office of the University of Tartu and the management board of the University of Tartu Academic Sports Club have discussed the future of the basketball club and decided to discontinue the activities of the team, which so far comprised professional players. To ensure the sustainable and competitive development of basketball at the university, the UT basketball team will henceforth rely on student sports and, above all, local young players.

According to the University of Tartu Director of Administration Meelis Luht, the financial deficit of the Academic Sports Club was about two hundred thousand euros at the end of 2017. “The biggest part of the costs resulted from the activities of the basketball club. If the club's activities continued on the same basis and to the same extent, the deficit would grow to half a million euros by the end of the year. This is why change is inevitable,” Luht admitted based on an analysis of the financial situation of the sports club. “Now we have to decide how to proceed.”

Basketball lovers in Tartu know that the University of Tartu basketball team has been looking for bigger financial support for years already, because the university and the city government of Tartu cannot guarantee sufficient support for the club. Foreign players are expensive to hire. Currently, professional players’ salaries account for about two thirds of the club’s costs. “Finding a name sponsor is very difficult and we have not been successful enough in finding smaller supporters either. The sponsorship could be three to four times the amount it is today,” said Meelis Luht.

Luht stressed that basketball is not the university's main activity. “We must not forget that the University of Tartu Academic Sports Club also deals with other sports besides basketball. Our goal is to support student sports, which means combining sports activities with studies and research. That is why we have decided to reform the basketball team,” he said. “We will review our current players’ contracts and create a new team composed of our own students.”

“Such reviews are made at the end of every season, there is nothing special about it,” said Priit Kaasik, head of the basketball division of the University of Tartu Academic Sports Club, and Director of the UT Institute of Sports Sciences and Physiotherapy, describing the background to the situation.

The sports club will continue to develop student sports in close cooperation with the UT Institute of Sports Sciences and Physiotherapy. “We will definitely continue our basketball activities. Our goal is to provide future players for the Estonian team by supporting young talented players,” Kaasik added.

“We want the University of Tartu and its basketball team to be attractive for young people who wish to do sports besides studying at the university,” said Meelis Luht. “We are going to work on an action plan to inform young people that they are welcome to the university’s team, as well as how to get there.”

Meelis Luht is sure that also a student team can offer highly exciting sports experiences to its fans. “A good example is the University of Tartu women’s volleyball team, who won the Estonian championships as well as the Estonian Cup and the Baltic League this year,” he said.

At the University of Tartu Academic Sports Club it is possible to do more than 20 fields of sports. The sports club's strategic plan, which sets objectives for the following years, will be completed in autumn.

Further information:
Meelis Luht
Director of Administration, University of Tartu
+372 511 6946

Priit Kaasik
Head of basketball division, UT Academic Sports Club
Director of UT Institute of Sports Sciences and Physiotherapy
+372 517 7696