By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The coronavirus epidemic is paralyzing the western hemisphere, and sports become secondary. However, every major sports league wants to finish the season, and Turkish Airlines EuroLeague couldn’t be an exception.
The difficulties are well documented, and EuroLeague Chief Operating Officer Edward Scott, taking into account the latest data, talked to Eurohoops about the wish of the competition to complete the season. On the other hand, he admits that having the 2020 Final Four on the 22nd of May is “quite unlikely to materialize,” even if this option, in theory, is still on the table.
EuroLeague will have to adapt to an unpredicted reality, which currently doesn’t have a timetable and changes almost by the hour. Scott also provides clarifications on the possible format changes, the issue of the players and coaches contract, and also the information that EuroLeague clubs would prefer the season to end to minimize their financial losses.
There’s a clear intention to finish the season, and you stated you hope to have the Final Four on the scheduled days. However, at this point, are there other scenarios on the table?
“I think realistically we are at the stage where we can see first of all that it’s very difficult to project how COVID-19 will evolve in different European countries. And all sports and entertainment event organizers are postponing multiple events on a daily basis. So, while we are still maintaining the existing arena reservation in Cologne at Lanxess Arena and we still have that option, realistically, it’s an option that is losing a lot of momentum. So we think it is quite unlikely to materialize. We have multiple alternative scenarios, but at this stage, it’s still way too early to talk about anything specifically. Because the situation remains so fluid, as the days progress and as the situation becomes clearer, we will find a shortlist and then minimize the realistic scenarios for the ending of the competition, however, all of those scenarios right now still include resuming and completing this season one way or another.”
Can you pinpoint a date in which those contingency plans will be the only option? Until when the season under the current format can be saved?
“Well, we’d love to for the benefit of everyone, starting with the fans, going through our clubs, players, coaches, our partners, our rights holders… So it would be in the best interest of everyone to be able to set deadlines on when certain scenarios will no longer be viable, but it really is impossible to predict given the variety of changes on a daily and hourly basis. Obviously, if we were able to resume the season in mid-April, which is right now still a very optimistic scenario, then mathematically, it will be possible to return to squeeze in a large number of games before the current, let’s say, season end dates in European basketball calendar. But if it is not possible to resume in mid-April, then obviously we’ll be looking at alternative scenarios one way or another.”
Is it hard to find a modified format that will be approved by all the clubs? Or it just depends on urgency and necessity?
“If we were talking about normal conditions or a normal scenario, then it probably would be difficult because everybody has to their own perspective, and everybody has their own priority, which is natural in life. But in the current environment, whatever and however the situation in Europe evolves in the coming days and weeks; we will be faced with a situation of necessity whereby the number of available dates we’ll be the ones that determine what scenarios are often are not possible in that sense. So once we get to that point, we strongly believe that all of our clubs both in the EuroLeague and EuroCup competitions will be able to very quickly come to a conclusion on how the season should be resumed.”
Is there a chance to see Euroleague games in June?
“As of today, not yet, but we cannot discard this option as the days continue to process because we may be facing a situation where the only way to resume and complete the season includes playing games in June. So it’s not a practical or formal option as of today, but we don’t discard it in the future. That may be a realistic option.”
There’s no CBA in Euroleague, so how do you intend to tackle any contractual dispute due to the pandemic?
“It’s always been the philosophy inside Euroleague Basketball to be proactive and to look for consensus and agreements ahead of time as opposed to allow any situation to worsen over time and then attempted to tackle or deal with disputes whenever possible. So we have been in contact with the EuroLeague Players Associations and, to a lesser extent, with the EuroLeague Head Coaches Board, and we are maintaining each other up to date with all of the latest developments that are happening and changing on a very rapid basis. And you know the positive thing is that all of the key stakeholders in our competitions – I think – have a very clear understanding of how the business is and they have a clear understanding that it’s necessary to take a mid-long term view on what is going on right now as opposed to a narrow-minded short term view.
Clubs are already today suffering a lot from the economic impact of suspending all of their activity in March, in a very unprecedented situation. And so the positive thing is that all the relevant stakeholders understand the challenges that the clubs are facing at this time. So it’s true that there is not a single collective bargaining agreement at the EuroLeague level. We do have a lot of smart, sensible, and experienced people in the different stakeholder groups that understand the status quo today and that equally importantly have an open mind. They have a willingness and availability to reach an agreement on how to deal with jointly or how to jointly try to fix or try to minimize the damages and the economic impact. The clubs are already suffering and will continue to suffer in the coming weeks and months.”
Are there clubs who would prefer the season to be canceled due to the current situation and avoid spending more money on salaries and other expenses?
“Inside the EuroLeague basketball competitions, I think we were fortunate that clubs which operate at this level in Europe, operate based on a level of professionalism and based on a level of standards. So if their mentality were to cancel a season and to minimize the additional expenses, then they would not be interested in the first place to participate in the EuroLeague or the EuroCup. So that’s a different philosophy or different mindset than the clubs we have.
It’s true that business and economics and the market scale reality of EuroLeague clubs are slightly different from the ones of the EuroCup. So for the same reason, our contingency planning in the EuroLeague and the EuroCup level are also probably slightly different because they’ve adjusted to the different realities in each competition. But if we were to have any clubs who would prefer to cancel a season and minimize expenses, then honesty those types of mentalities don’t align with the Euroleague Basketball philosophy and vision for the past twenty seasons but also for the future”.