CEO’s and employees shoot hoops together .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - For five years now, basketball teams made up of company employees have been competing on the courts. CEO’s leave their title at the office and play ball alongside their employees in hard fought matches against competing companies. The aim is to stay healthy and ensure employee loyalty.

For the past five years, company executives and employees have joined forces on the basketball court in an effort to promote team spirit and general well being. Furthermore, male and female players play for the same team.

The Business League, organized by Wolftrack Organizasyon and with referee support from the Turkish Basketball Federation, features 28 mixed gender teams comprised of company employees and executives. The teams compete in seven groups of four teams each to qualify among the top eight and enter the playoffs. The Business League runs from December to May and this year’s season started last week. Cemil Öner, general coordinator of Wolftrack, said each team consisted of 20 players. "The purpose is to help people to stay healthy through sporting activities, strengthening employees’ loyalty to their companies and building an institutional culture and team spirit."

"There will be no titles among players. Women and men play side by side, this too brings an additional contribution from some people," said Erkan Gültekin Nasif, the head of Turkish Economy Bank, or TEB, general services department."Communication within the company is improving. We joined the league for the first time this year and 50 of our employees watched us," said Nasif who also captains the TEB basketball team. "Coach Doğan Atok works with us and receives a nominal salary. The player transfer market will soon begin in this league too," he said.

Öner said this year the fees charged to participate in the league was TL 8,250 per team plus 18 percent tax, while it was TL 7,200 plus tax last year.

The teams play at least nine games each season, have two coaches each and practice regularly, according to Öner.

Öner said they had a football league in the past. "But the blue collar workers were not as consistent as the white collar ones. However, we will start a volleyball league this March. This league is for Istanbul only, but includes teams from İzmit." Öner said the league was previously also organized in Ankara and İzmir and they wanted to visit other cities again next year.

The entrepreneurial spirit is visible in Öner, who said they had sold the rights to use the name "Business League" to another company in Croatia and there will be a Business League in Austria in the future as well.

Öner said the games were played at facilities of the Terakki Foundation. "The games are played in front of crowds averaging approximately 250 people. The companies bring supporters to the games by buses. If one considers the average attendance at Beko Basketball league games, our crowd interest is not bad."

The company teams include players from almost every position. Hasip Gencer, CEO of UNO, a baking products company; İsmail Uyanık, a shareholder of UNO and former president of the Samsunspor football club, and Erhan Adalı, general manager of Garanti Pensions, are among the heavyweights who compete in the Business League.

Fun to mingle with youth
"I used to play basketball when I was a student at Istanbul Boys’ High School," said İsmail Uyanık, partner at UNO. "We are trying to achieve things that we could not in the past in the UNO team. It is very nice to play with young people," he said. I score lower than average. We have won three championships in four years. The competition is severe as very serious companies play in the league.

Öner said the Turkish Basketball Federation not only offered support by providing referees, but also provided statistical data support. Bilge Adam, one of their sponsors, offers a training package to the best players of the month and the year, and Maya Sports Center offers club membership to the final champions.

Öner said SKY Türk, a television channel, broadcasts some of the games and will broadcast the final game live. Öner said they had not advertised the league very successfully and they would pay more attention to that next year.