Virtus Bologna kicked out of Italian basketball league

Updated: August 5, 2003, 2:09 PM ET

ROME - Italian giant Virtus Bologna has been kicked out of the league after failing to make an overdue payment to former guard Sani Becirovic.

Becirovic, a Slovenian who was picked by the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the recent NBA draft, had asked the Italian Basketball Federation (FIP) to act on his behalf on October 28 after Virtus failed to pay him.

The club made the decision after the 22-year-old failed to play in a game last season following knee operations in January and September.

The federal council of the FIP unanimously agreed to cancel Virtus' participation in Serie A next season after the team missed a deadline to pay 1 million euros.

"We have not done anything other than confirm the decision we made on July 25, in our last Federal meeting in which we gave a deadline to Virtus to make the payment in four days," FIP vice president Paolo Troncarelli said. "This has not happened and thus Virtus' inclusion in the competition has been denied."

Virtus Bologna president Marco Madrigali believed the club did nothing wrong.

"The contract we had with the player previewed a payment according to a job that until now has not been done," he said.

Virtus claimed it was reassured by FIP president Fausto Maifredi that its position was safe. The club insisted it is not being treated fairly.

"We had done everything that the Federation had asked us to do," Madrigali said. "Maifredi had told me that everything was fine."

The Virtus supremo confirmed it would appeal the decision to Regional Administration Tribunal (TAR).

"I am confused and saddened," Becirovic said. "In the end the rules have been respected, but I never thought that something so serious as the disappearance of Virtus could happen.

"I remained optimistic until the end, hoping that an agreement would be reached with president Madrigali."

The decision to demote Virtus from Serie A has sent shockwaves through the sport in Italy.

In its 85-year history, Virtus has captured 15 Scudetti, eight Coppa Italia, two Euroleagues and one Supercup. As recently as 2000-01, coach Ettore Messina led Virtus to the Scudetto, the Euroleague and the Coppa Italia.

"This is a drama for Italian sports, a tragedy that has hit the glorious tradition of Virtus," said Bogdan Tanjevic, who coached the team last season. "I was not expecting this resolution."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index