Jordi Bertomeu: The next EuroLeague season will be our best ever

2020-05-25T19:07:21+00:00 2020-05-25T23:18:32+00:00.

Antonis Stroggylakis

25/May/20 19:07

Jordi Bertomeu analyzed why EuroLeague decided to cancel the 2019-2020 season on a remote press conference with European media.

By Antonis Stroggylakis/

EuroLeague CEO Jordi Bertomeu characterized the decision to cancel the 2019-2020 season of the competition as an extremely tough call and one of the hardest decisions “possibly of our professional careers.”

“We took a difficult decision, one of the saddest decisions in EuroLeague history. But we think we have made the best decision for everyone,” Bertomeu said during a remote press conference that was held a few hours after the official announcement of the termination of the 2019-2020 EuroLeague. He’s hopeful that the next season will be “our best season ever like 2019-2020 was the best season ever before it was suspended.” A season that, for the first time, was over with no team celebrating a championship. “I don’t see one team losing more than another. In this season we are all losers.”

“I think it has been a permanent process of monitoring the elements we have to take into account. A process of information that led us to the conclusion that we cant give the fans a level of competition that we were used to,” Bertomeu said on the period leading to Monday’s unprecedented ruling. EuroLeague was first suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12 and after some games were held behind closed doors. “We announced that a decision would be taken on May 25. we didn’t want to postpone it, to add more information because it’s a domino effect: If we postponed, everything would be postponed.”

The season was shut down for good two days after EuroLeague had a meeting with senior player representatives from the 18 teams. “I think that their main concern was about the short time of preparation. Some of the players are still at home, with no possibility to go out. Some of them have no possibility to have practices or work together. They have been locked down at home for almost two months and a half, so to come back and to perform at the level that the competition requires is very difficult,” Bertomeu mentioned. Many EuroLeague players have been rather vocal against the potential resumption of the season, citing reasons that included injury worries due to lack of sufficient training, and fear of contamination.

“We had a similar vision before this meeting,” Bertomeu added. “They knew, and we started with a very clear statement, that the purpose of the meeting was to hear them and to see how they feel regarding resuming the competition.” 

The salary issue was never an actual matter in the discussion, Bertomeu said. It was all about health concerns. “I don’t believe that this 5% has been the reason why they don’t want to come back. I don’t remember one of these 37 players that gathered in this meeting talking about the economy.”

Among the decisions that the ECA (EuroLeague Commercial Assets) executive board took during Monday’s remote meeting took was that the 2020-2021 EuroLeague will feature the same teams that participated in the current season. It was a disappointing development for EuroCup title frontrunners Partizan Belgrade and Virtus Bologna that saw their EuroLeague hopes for the upcoming year getting crushed.

According to Bertomeu, the assembly decided to keep the exact same teams (an expansion was never considered) for reasons that had to do with the “consistency” and “fairness.” “Unfortunately, we are in circumstances that nobody wants to be in. And I think that everybody has to understand how exceptional the situation that we have is. Accordingly, the consequences are also exceptional. For one year, there will be no promotion or relegation. And in both competitions, there will not be champions. We are not happy and comfortable with this, but it is the reality. Basically, we have to express our values, and our values are around the concepts of the fairness and integrity of the competition. We cannot award a champion, and we cannot punish a team with relegation if a team has not been able to play regularly, as was the dream.” 

And what about clubs leaving EuroLeague’s competitions? Rytas Vilnius and Tofas Bursa have announced that they are joining the Basketball Champions League after playing in the 2019-2020 EuroCup. “We respect the clubs going to the competition they want to play. The EuroCup features clubs that want to play in EuroLeague. If they [the clubs] give up their ambition and believe that the future is another competition, we have to respect that,” Bertomeu commented.

Bertomeu was also asked about Panathinaikos being reported as the only club that disagreed with the cancelation. Panathinaikos owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos was said to comment that there’s nothing concrete regarding the revenues of the clubs for the upcoming season.

“Dimitris (Giannakopoulos) expressed concerns about the economic impact for the clubs. However, all clubs agreed that today that was not the topic, it was if we could deliver a top-level of competition,” Bertomeu said.  “I don’t remember Dimitris (Giannakopoulos) raising any issue for the financial integrity of the league.”

The decision to not proclaim a champion wasn’t even an issue, according to Bertomeu. “There was no controversy on this point. It was not even discussed. Nobody argued, nobody asked, everybody understood the reason why we believe that, with six game dates still to play in the regular season, with the whole playoffs and the Final Four – despite there being a team that, as always, there has to be someone who is leading the league – it doesn’t mean that this team deserves more than others in a competition that we are very used to seeing that the champion of the regular season is not always the champion of the league.”

The fact that that were six matches left in the regular season plus at least the playoffs and the Final Four was also why no individual awards will be given for 2019-2020. “It’s the same rationale behind the decision. Still with a very significant part of the season to be played, to decide who is the best player or the best coach is unjustified. If we have to be consistent with the main decision, which is not to have a champion, I think the rest of the awards need to go in the same direction.”