COLOGNE — Aris Barkas / firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s a tradition for EuroLeague CEO Jordi Bertomeu to meet with the press on the morning of the EuroLeague final and even during COVID, the meeting was held.
However, by keeping the proper distances, things were more formal than ever and no big news was produced. What was reaffirmed was that the EuroLeague is moving fast in order to be in the pole position when the global pandemic ends. In EuroLeague’s case, that practically means an expansion.
Does it also mean a closed league? “The issue of the closed league in basketball was there even before the institution of the EuroLeague, it was something that the clubs was asking from FIBA, following a model which is very familiar to the basketball world”, said Bertomeu adding why in his opinion there can’t be any real comparison with the European Super League.
“Contrary to football, in basketball, most of the domestic leagues don’t currently give any added value to the clubs, or significant revenues”, said the EuroLeague CEO.
However, this doesn’t mean that the EuroLeague will become a totally closed league when it would be decided that it’s time for an expansion from 18 to 20 teams.
The precise plan is the following. EuroLeague will not expand to more than 20 teams in the near future with 18 of them probably having a permanent license. Meanwhile, the EuroCup will also have 20 teams and it will act “as a filter, like a preparatory stage”, according to Bertomeu, for the teams which will want to make the step towards the EuroLeague.
That means a new era for the EuroCup with at least 13 teams, as it’s already announced, that will have a three-year license with the goal being simple: “For the moment and considering the issues created by the pandemic, we are more than interested in the stability on both our competitions. We never intended to abandon the EuroCup, we don’t know where this rumor came from, and on the other hand, the plan of a totally closed league is not realistic at the moment”.
Nonetheless, it’s obvious that getting both to the EuroLeague and the EuroCup will have nothing to do with national leagues and according to Bertomeu this is made impossible due to the presence of the BCL: “Until a few years ago, the clubs knew that they have the option to play in the EuroCup according to their league standings. Now they have also the BCL option, so it’s not clear where the clubs will play next season, there’s pressure on them from local federations and the most important thing is that the fans are confused. It’s always a bad thing when you need to explain something that’s not clear to the average fan who may not know in which competition his team will end up playing”.
By June we will know the 20 teams which will compete in the EuroCup and as for the EuroLeague, if the calendar permits it, we might see the induction of the play in a format as it happened in the NBA.
The most important change, however, is that the clubs will long term licenses will be 16 and not 14 in the near future with Italy and Russia probably getting two more spots. “There’s an obvious candidate from Italy, a market that really interests us”, said Bertomeu without naming Virtus Bologna, while Zenit St. Petersburg also seems to be part of the long-term plans, because “Russia is also a market that’s important and in which we believe that we can have a lot of growth”.
Meanwhile, the talks between the EuroLeague and ELPA, the players union, are near completion and the competition will soon have its first CBA, a very crucial issue in conjunction with the Financial Fair Play “in order to have sustainability and not an owner which pays for everything, resulting in the end in bad examples like the one we had this year”. If you think that Jordi Bertomeu means Khimki Moscow Region, you are right.
And while there’s a clear roadmap for the future, Jordi Bertomeu had also to deal with the “secret meeting” of the seven clubs in Athens. As he said, these kinds of meetings are natural processes within the EuroLeague, even if in that specific case the EuroLeague was not informed by the club. Still for Bertomeu, “this was not a surprise, I am in constant contact with the club owners and we are constantly talking about the problems and the solutions we might need. The pandemic led us to a new strategy in order to cover part of our losses and get more revenues. The clubs are the owners of the EuroLeague, of course, they can say whatever they want, they can discuss everything and from the first day they have access to every decision, having all the information on their disposition”.
That’s why Jordi Bertomeu doesn’t consider that meeting a personal attack against him: “It’s irrelevant how I felt, but I didn’t felt that way. I repeat once more, the clubs are the EuroLeague owners and if they had any doubts, or any objection all those 21 years against me, they would have said so. The clubs have every right to talk and to decide, that’s why the EuroLeague was created in the first place”.