Jordi Bertomeu gave an exclusive interview to Eurohoops.net which will be talked about. For the first time he states publicly that he is not opposed to future steps towards the direction of a more closed league and on the same time he clarifies that the recent changes in Euroleague’s format have already produced important gains to all parties involved in the competition.
Euroleague’s CEO is satisfied with the Friday’s games bet and with the new Top16 format, while he underlines that the impressive growth of German BBL the last 3 seasons – the only league which have taken leaps forward in Europe – can be considered an example for everyone.
He insists that the current criteria for Euroleague participation are adequate and he doesn’t believe that, at this point, the conditions are mature enough for a change in the current licenses’ system and a closed league, because according to him the A licenses are covering the stability needed by Europe’s biggest clubs.
So, why we decided to ask all those questions?
According to Eurohoops sources, team owners of big clubs around Europe are more and more thinking the possibility of a closed continental league, closer to NBA’s blueprint. They want to maximize their revenues, the public interest, the sponsors’ interest and also the fan-base of Euroleague. The main idea is that only this way European basketball will get the final product that it’s entitle to in any level.
The plan is maturing, because many clubs can’t withstand losing money every season and they believe that the decrease of their revenues from the domestic leagues – sponsorships and TV rights – is going to continue in the immediate future. Only time will tell if this plan is going to materialize, but Bertomeu’s answers at this point seem to cover every possibility and that’s why they have a real value.
As he states, this season’s changes prove that Euroleague has a lot more to give to European basketball and on the other hand he is not absolute in anything, he keeps his eyes and ears opened and he is ready to hear any suggestion that could be proved useful to the league.
- Is there any chance that Euroleague is going to change its position on a closed league, by making steps towards this direction?
“It´s been three seasons since the Euroleague General Assembly proposed a new license structure that promoted an open competition system allowing for greater sporting competitiveness while increasing stability for participating clubs, and we are confident and consider that the reality has shown that it is the best format as brings stability to the competition with the A – Licenses that allow a certain number of teams (maximum 14) to participate each season, awards the year by year performance of the teams in their National Leagues with the B – Licenses and opens a window for the Eurocup Champion with the C – Licenses that together with the implementation of Qualifying Rounds on 2009 – 2010 give the competition the perfect equilibrium”.
- Do you know if there are any owners of elite Euroleague’s clubs, who want to have a closed league as soon as possible? Maybe because the money they get from TV rights and sponsors at their national leagues getting fewer and fewer each year, due to economical crisis?
“Some teams have shown their interest on playing a European league format and the change we have introduced this season with a bigger number of games in the Top 16, from 6 to 14, is one more step towards this project. It is too soon now to think of new steps to be taken. Our television and commercial partners are very happy with this move, and now we have to evaluate how this affects to what is more important, the spectators. First data we obtained is very positive, showing bigger audience numbers in attendance, TV viewers and online visitors, but these changes were big and therefore need some more time to settle and to have reliable data to show their impact”.
- Ηave you received any feed back by the national leagues complaining about this season’s calendar (with games on Friday and the new Top16 format), which made really hard to have their own calendars?
“Once the changes for this season were approved, playing games on Friday instead of Wednesday and changing the Top 16 format, we took all the possible measures to make the easiest adaptation to all the parties involved, this is the teams and the national leagues like for example, closing and publishing the official calendar just after the draw was held or adapting the referees nominations to give them a bigger time window to work with. Some national leagues have adapted their calendar to this new situation like the Greek, French or the VTB Leagues by playing some games on Monday and some other Leagues have continued with the current Saturday and Sunday format. Based on the regular season figures that we have, we can say that Friday is being accepted as “Euroleague day” quite fast, after 10 weeks reported game attendance figures showed a 9% per-game increase in the number of fans attending games on Fridays this season as compared to Wednesdays last season, early estimates based on audience data that will be collected throughout the season indicates a double-digit increase in viewership on Fridays as compared to Wednesdays plus an increase in the number of countries broadcasting Turkish Airlines Euroleague games from 173 a year ago to 187 and finally traffic on the Turkish Airlines Euroleague official website, www.euroleague.net, has shown a 16% increase”.
- Do you think that a closed league will help you make your big decision for financial fair play come true in the best possible way? You know better than anyone else that according to this season’s financial data this is not a realistic goal -with the exception of the German teams.
“The Financial Fair play regulations are not subject to any change in the competition format, it is an initiative that we already launched last year and we are working to develop and implement it as soon as possible seeking to protect the integrity and smooth running of the competition, as well as to increase the long-term financial health of its participating clubs. Indeed, German teams are an example. In fact, one of the members of the Commission that is developing this project is Jan Pommer comissioner of the Beko Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) of Germany as we also consider it as the example to follow”.
- Is there any chance of talks with Euroleague’s clubs about the possibility of a closed league, with you giving 4-year guaranteed contracts. And will you be willing to hear everything the clubs have to say about the number of the games, so the teams to decide for themselves if they want to play all season for their national leagues or if they want to participate only in the play offs?
“Of course we are always open to the clubs suggestions in any different aspect, moreover all strategic decision are shared and approved by them in the Executive Boards and General Assemblies. In fact the reason to increase the number of games in the Top 16 comes from the general need of the clubs to play more between the best teams of the continent. On the other hand I think that the participating clubs share with us the fact that the current licenses distribution is the most fair from a sport and business point of view. In any case 4–year guaranteed contract do not make any sense in the actual License distribution, where we already have long – term licenses”.