Tennis Club Mladost from Banja Luka, which is the most successful tennis club in Republika Srpska according to results, will remain without part of the infrastructure it has been using since 1986. Namely, the City of Banja Luka has prepared a Decision to transfer the right to manage, use, and maintain tennis courts to the Tennis Federation of Republika Srpska
This Decision should be presented to the city councillors of the Banja Luka City Assembly, scheduled for March 30. It concerns five parcels of land, on which four tennis courts and one padel court are located, which the city institutions granted to Tennis Club Mladost for management in 1986, and which are located in Mladen Stojanović Park, right next to the premises of the Tennis Federation of Republika Srpska. Although there is no official estimate of the value of these parcels, it is clear that it is land worth millions.
As stated in the decision that should be passed by the City Assembly, which Gerila info had access to, the sports courts are being transferred to the Tennis Federation of Republika Srpska for the purpose of developing and improving sports and physical culture, for an indefinite period.
As explained in the decision signed by Mayor Draško Stanivuković, the Tennis Federation of Republika Srpska approached the City of Banja Luka with an initiative to transfer the right to manage, and in the Federation, they explained this by the “need for adaptation and reconstruction of existing tennis courts in the park, which will be used for organizing sports competitions of ATP 250 “Srpska open”.
Specifically, the Tennis Federation said in its explanation that they must prove that they have the capacity to maintain tournaments from the 250 series in the coming years.
However, according to sources from Gerila info, there is no ATP rule that tennis federations or tournament organizers must manage courts and halls.
Moreover, the majority, if not all, of the tournaments in the calendars are played on tennis courts owned or used by clubs.
For example, the tournament played in Umag (Croatia Open), which is of the same category as the tournament to be held in Banja Luka this year, is also played on the courts of the tennis club in the mentioned Croatian city. The situation is similar to other tournaments played in that country.
Also, the tournament scheduled for April 16 in Banja Luka, in previous years when played in Belgrade, was played on private courts.
What is very interesting is that the Tennis Federation of Republika Srpska did not mention in the mentioned letter that the Srpska open tournament is not on the ATP calendar for 2024.
The tournament director, Đorđe Đoković, himself stated in one of his media appearances, among other things, that the license for the tournament cannot be obtained again because it is not owned by the Đoković family, but by a private company, that is, a businessman from Romania who decides whether to award that license to someone.
Banja Luka Mayor Draško Stanivuković, who signed the Decision and forwarded it to the City Assembly, claims that it is a purposeful decision. However, the mentioned Decision nowhere mentions that these are the courts currently used by Tennis Club Mladost.
Decision prepared for the Banja Luka City Assembly meeting
“Taking into account the specific purpose of the subject sports courts which are used for sports activities, it has been determined that it is expedient to assign the aforementioned tennis courts for management, use and maintenance to the Tennis Association of Republika Srpska”, it is stated in the Decision prepared by Draško Stanivuković for tomorrow’s Assembly session.
According to Gerila Info, although the club was shocked by the decision, they still refrained from public reactions due to numerous pressures and fears for their own safety. One of the City Assembly commissions was also under pressure, as it did not give a positive opinion and returned the Decision prepared by the mayor for revision because the documentation was incomplete. Specifically, the commission held this position because the decision stated that the courts were assigned indefinitely, that is, it did not state that they were assigned to the Association only during the duration of the tennis tournament.
However, according to the latest information, the commission will meet again before the City Assembly session, and they are being asked to give a positive opinion.
One of the courts that would be taken away from TC Mladost by this decision is the central court that this club uses, which is the only court with stands and is located directly next to the club’s premises.
City Assembly member Saša Lazić says that he also strongly opposes this decision and has expressed his opinion personally.
“This is city land and the City can lease it to whoever they want, but this is not humane. It is not a problem to assign these courts for a period of 14 days, during the tournament, but everything else suffocates the club’s existence. The club has built and maintained these courts for almost 40 years and invested a lot of money in it, and this is just the lobby of politics and interest groups”, says Saša Lazić, a member of the Banja Luka Calls movement, for Gerila Info.
He further states that since there is a political agreement, his opinion is that the City Assembly will adopt it. However, he hopes that there are still members who will vote according to their own conscience, and not under pressure from political parties.
“Why doesn’t the Tennis Association build their own courts? Why are they so eager to take away the courts from a club that has been around for 40 years and is currently the best in the country?” asks Lazić.
TC Mladost has already lost two tennis courts
Otherwise, in the Mladen Stojanović Park, where TC Mladost operates with over 200 members, including children, competitors, and recreational players, the Tennis Federation has already taken two courts from the mentioned club. In 2020, for the needs of the Adria Tour, which was ultimately not held, the Tennis Federation of Republika Srpska “appropriated” two courts that became part of the National Tennis Center. The Federation currently uses these courts and, according to information from Gerila Info, has been charging interested users for renting them for almost three years.
To be fair, there is a certain ranking list for users who can use the courts for free, and these are young and promising players who have achieved certain results. This was stated by unofficial sources from the Tennis Federation of Republika Srpska. They claim that children have never paid for using the courts managed by the Federation.
“I do not remember the City giving these courts to the Federation for use, although I was an alderman at the time”, says Saša Lazić, an alderman in the Banja Luka Assembly.
Today, the Tennis Federation of Republika Srpska did not respond to our questions regarding their request for the use, management, and maintenance of the tennis courts currently used by the Mladost Banjaluka Tennis Club. One of the questions was regarding the already “appropriated” courts and renting them to third parties. We also sought a statement from the President of the Tennis Federation of Republika Srpska, Draško Milinović.
Milinović is a former director of Radio Television of Republika Srpska and is now the head of the Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Interestingly, one of the members of the Board of Directors in this Federation is Siniša Karan, the current Minister of Internal Affairs of Republika Srpska and one of the closest associates of the President of Republika Srpska and the SNSD, Milorad Dodik.
The international tennis tournament of the ATP 250 series is being held this year in Banja Luka, and for the purposes of that tournament, the City of Banja Luka, the Government of Republika Srpska, and the Tennis Association have begun construction of the courts. Interestingly, the public procurement procedure was bypassed when selecting the contractor for the work, because the City of Banja Luka delegated the task of selecting the contractor to the Tennis Association of the Republic of Srpska. If the government or the city had chosen the contractor, the principle of public procurement would have to be respected. Due to the bypassing of public procurement, Nebojša Vukanović, a member of parliament, filed a criminal complaint against the mayor of Banja Luka, Draško Stanivuković, and the prime minister of Republika Srpska, Radovan Višković.
City manager Bojan Kresojević told Gerila info that the city is providing the courts to the association because there is a need for the association to have certain courts for the tournament. He stated that the courts have been given to the association indefinitely, but that the city council can revoke the decision and take the courts away from the Tennis Association of Republika Srpska at any time.
“We cannot limit it to 15 or 30 days. We have put it indefinitely and the assembly can revoke the decision and take away the courts from the Tennis Federation of Republika Srpska at any time,” said Kresojević for Gerila info.
Banja Luka is allocating 15 million marks for the construction of tennis courts, which will be used for the ATP tournament Banja Luka Open. This money is secured through a loan.
Upon the order of the Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office of Republika Srpska, and after a report by Nebojša Vukanović, criminal inspectors of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Republika Srpska today took documentation related to the construction of tennis courts for the needs of the ATP tournament Banja Luka Open from the Banja Luka city administration.
“Let everyone do their job. I am confident that there are no irregularities here,” said Banja Luka Mayor Draško Stanivuković, commenting on the police action.