Jordi Bertomeu lays out EuroLeague growth, explains his departure

2022-10-17T16:48:13+00:00 2022-10-17T16:57:34+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

17/Oct/22 16:48

Euroleague Basketball enters the post-Jordi Bertomeu era and the former CEO shares his view on the past, present, and future of the company

By Johnny Askounis/

Dejan Bodiroga is the new president of Euroleague Basketball and also assumed the role of director, while Marshall Glickman was named acting CEO in the aftermath of parting ways with long-lasting CEO Jordi Bertomeu.

Bertomeu, 63, talked to Barcelona-based outlet 2Playbook about the growth of Euroleague Basketball over the years, what led to his departure, and much more.

“We formed the league and I left after 22 years,” he stated the obvious and went on, “The belief is that we created a league making an impact and changing the reality. There are many signs toward making a positive impact.”

“Above all, we made basketball global. Initially, it was viewed locally. Knowing when your favorite team was playing and that was it. I always say that we turned an individual competition into a collective one. The clubs were not connected but for 22 years working together as a group, making decisions. At first, we had TV coverage in only seven countries, now EuroLeague is available in over 200 countries. In addition, the games were played in small gyms, with an average attendance of barely 2,000 fans, and now average more than 9,000 spectators,” he expanded on the signs of progress.

“Since the season we signed with IMG (2015), we went from a budget of 36M euros to an annual budget of 100M euros at my departure,” he explained the financial part, “We created our own identity.”

“From the beginning, we were a disruptive element,” he said on EuroLeague being ahead of its time compared to other sports leagues, “When we left FIBA in 2000, it was very difficult. We went through political pressure that I had to deal with. We proposed something unique, a competition outside the international federation, but the teams were ready to take a business risk.”

“Becoming a united group was challenging. Europe is not like the USA working in one single market. Here, we have many cultures and different ways of owning and managing teams,” he argued, “Teams talking to each other, sharing internal information. Adapting to each country and culture is one of the great achievements because there was a real culture change in management.”

“Financial fair play was not complicated,” said Bertomeu on finally introducing the Financial Stability and Fair Play Regulations in 2015, “When it was implemented, it did not exist elsewhere in Europe. Teams always argue they spend money and that the league does not distribute enough. But the data proves the opposite. Not only the teams grew by 18% on average, but the league itself by 70%.”

“Some teams wanted and want to win at all costs. That’s why they demand access to players without restrictions. This leads to the assumption of spending without considering revenues. And then they complain that the league must distribute more money instead of fitting into their own budgets,” he described the situation.

“Other teams have accepted that control is necessary for survival, according to the reality of business, even if they are the ones investing the most because they understand the mutual benefits of the restrictions,” he added, “For financial control to be effective, it is necessary for everyone to trust each other. In any other case, the system does not work.”

“When the teams acknowledge they can’t always win and that cost must be balanced,” he predicted when the issue will be resolved, “I think there is a potential for income. But, it can’t be achieved through traditional markets alone. Income from rights in France or Germany generates 1M euros. Rich markets need to be introduced in Euroleague Basketball and this must come with improvement of the product, which always brings a significant raise in revenue.”

“The possibility exists but fear as well and you must be afraid,” he replied to a question about an expansion to markets such as the United Arab Emirates.

“I believe it was fear,” he estimated the reason leading to his departure, “If there is a deadlock, and I hope there will not be, it won’t be due to separation between the teams, which obviously exists, but because of fear. There is a certain amount of fear in making necessary decisions, such as fair play and that is one of the keys to understanding what happened. So far, all decisions were made by consensus, without a vote.”

“I believe some managers are more afraid than owners,” he continued, “All the steps proposed clashed with their way of working and they would no longer be able to pressure the owners.”

“When the league was strong, there was no thought of FIBA creating its own competition. The NBA only moves when you ask for help and in a neutral way,” Bertomeu went into the well-documented issues with FIBA, “Euroleague Basketball has to evaluate the proposals of FIBA. Every time we talked, we never got a sustainable economic proposal and many clubs are reluctant to return to its competitions.”

“No, because without the unity between the teams, all this would never happen,” he replied to a question on whether he is optimistic for the future of Euroleague Basketball, “When you lack self-confidence, you can’t do anything right.”

“They have been working for many years and built this organization and I would not like the knowledge and experience we achieved to stop there,” he wished for the next steps of Euroleague Basketball.