By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Turkish Airlines EuroLeague CEO Jordi Bertomeu held a conference call to discuss the current situation in Europe due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility of resuming the season.
The goal of the EuroLeague is clear, as Bertomeu once again repeated: “We want to resume our competitions, maybe without fans, but we will do it only when health conditions permit it. We will not jeopardize the health of anyone. We have a protocol about how to do it. It’s obvious at this point that we will not have our Final Four in May. On the other hand, it’s obvious that we are working on other scenarios. The same applies to 7Days EuroCup. We might have to resume the season only in one venue”.
However, that scenario doesn’t have a format yet. When asked from Eurohoops about the possibility of having a Final Eight, or a more expanded knock out tournament between many teams, Bertomeu clarified: “At this point, we have teams from the sixth the 15th position which have playoff chances. So from a sporting standpoint, we don’t have to speculate”.
And the same applies to the EuroCup, which is currently in the quarterfinals phase: “We don’t have any discussions about a Final Eight, we are still working on our original format. Everything else right now, it’s just speculation”.
The point, however, remains that EuroLeague is examining the scenario of finishing the season using just one city, the one which will be considered safe from COVID-19. “The most important thing is to find a country which has the facilities and also the safest environment healthwise,” said Bertomeu. “There are many options on the table at this moment; it’s too early to say anything else. We know that we should get out of this crisis better, stronger, and more prepared. The crisis will definitely help us solve the structural problems that we had for years”.
Speaking about those structural problems, Bertomeu explained his position: “We didn’t start this league from scratch, we are constantly evolving. We have things that we did not address in recent years. The distribution of the league should be more homogenous in the biggest markets of Europe. However, we are not focused on next season and wildcards yet. We are focused on finishing this season”.
And of course, this may not be possible. “If we have to cancel the competitions, we will,” Bertomeu said. “If there’s a minimum risk for our players, we will not take this kind of risk.”
The final decision on this matter should be taken in five weeks from now. “We have to decide near the end of May, but as it happens with many things in these circumstances, that timeline can change because we are monitoring all countries,” Bertomeu admitted. “It’s risky to make predictions.”
The near and mid-term future
Another issue that the EuroLeague clubs may face when and if the season resume is that many players have left for the home countries, including the USA. According to Bertomeu, it’s up to the clubs to find a way to help them return: “We recommended to our clubs to keep their players from leaving in order to be able to resume competitions, even if we totally understand the reasons behind the decision of allowing them to go. I would say it’s the clubs’ responsibility if the players don’t return”.
Meanwhile, the issue of pay cuts for players and coaches is on the table, and Bertomeu hopes that it can be resolved amicably and lead the way to a possible CBA: “I expect a deal with players about their salaries soon. We are working with their union and also with the coaches union to collectively reach this agreement”.
After all, pay cuts extend to everyone, as Bertomeu confirmed taking about the reported wages cut in EuroLeague’s partner IGM: “Every company tries to protect their cash flow. This is a crisis that we are all living in. We are in constant contact with IMG, and this is something all companies have done. We did it also. We don’t have any reason to worry about our partnership”.
That also extends to the partnership with the naming sponsor of the competition, the Turkish Airlines. “After ten years of cooperation with Turkish Airlines, we trust each other,” said Bertomeu, “our agreement always has a long term perception, and I’m 100% confident we will continue together”.
There’s no doubt that there will be consequences also for next season. Still, Bertomeu stated that at this point, you can’t measure them and have a firm understanding of how much the EuroLeague will be affected: “We can’t deny that next season will also be affected. But we should not talk about it based on feelings and speculations. We need a more accurate understanding of how this situation will finish in order to have an answer for the future. We will not have games with fans on the stands, but I am optimistic about the next season. Probably we should have protocols about attending venues with guidelines on social behaviors”.