By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
One week ago with a simple press release FIBA announced that “FIBA Europe board confirmed the recognition of the Balkan League while it decided to derecognise the Adriatic League”.
The official excuse is that “recognition of a league may be withdrawn particularly in the event that it’s does not comply with the requirements under the FIBA Europe by-laws and the FIBA general statutes and internal regulations. The Adriatic League failed to provide sufficient information on several points related to the above when requested to do so by FIBA Europe and FIBA”.
Still the decision to recognize the Balkan League – which includes eight low level teams from FYROM, Kosovo, Romania and Albania – and erase the seal of FIBA’s approval from one of best leagues in the Balkans, it is not something that simple. According to Serbian media, this is not a final decision – according to the press release it is, starting from next season – but only an intention, since there’s was not a vote on the matter by FIBA’s general assembly.
However the main point of all this seems to be something much different. It’s not a secret that Euroleague – and other European domestic leagues – are not accepting the new national teams calendar approved by FIBA which includes from the 2017-18 season national teams’ qualifying games during the season. As Euroleague CEO Jordi Bertomeu said in his Spox.com interview: “FIBA is planning projects, without thinking about who are the real catalysts of basketball: the clubs. It’s almost like there’s a lack of respect”.
And the fact remains that since 2000 FIBA isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of the top clubs competition in the world, exlcuding the NBA, being organized by an entity which is not under their control.
How Adriatic league fits into the picture? Like VTB league, it’s a regional league which has a close relationship with Euroleague, giving berths for the competition, something that in most other cases is done by the domestic leagues of each country. On the contrary to VTB, Adriatic league is in much lesser financial state, so you may also say that it’s an easy target.
So consider this, if not a declaration of war, then a message by FIBA to Euroleague. According to Eurohoops sources, some national federations, trusted by FIBA, are already approaching big European clubs in order to probe their intentions for a possible return to a continental league controlled by FIBA. So let’s hope that this cold war doesn’t escalate soon into a new schism, like it happened in the 2000-01 season with ULEB’s Euroleague and FIBA’s Suproleague being organized simultaneously, because the first casualty of such a conflict will be basketball.
UPDATE: FIBA all but confirmed its intension for a new European clubs league. Buried in the press release about the decision for the 2019 World Cup to be played in Asia, there also this small detail:
– The Executive Committee was given a progress report on the remodeling of the European club competitions; it gave the green light to continue with the work, and if required by the project, to invest significant funds together with FIBA Europe.