By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
KAUNAS, Lithuania – The traditional meeting of the EuroLeague management with selected members of the press during the Final Four had a historic significance this year.
With no Jordi Bertomeu present anymore but with – still interim – CEO Marshall Glickman and president Dejan Bodiroga as the hosts, a brave new era starts with many questions and no easy answers.
There’s no doubt that EuroLeague is growing in every aspect, the exposure in the US via ESPN can be a huge boost at least in the prestige of the league, however, on the other hand, there are things that need to change and so far, there’s no time frame for when some long-rumored issues, like the notorious agreement with FIBA, may happen.
And one of those issues was the now-infamous brawl in Madrid.
Dejan Bodiroga on the sanctions: “I was surprised”
One of the main issues discussed in the meeting was the Madrid brawl. With the “Whites” ultimately winning the trophy, the question of whether the punishments announced fit the “crime” is even more important.
“I can only say that I was surprised”, said Bodiroga sending out a very clear message, while he also stressed the importance of both Real Madrid‘s and Partizan’s reaction after the incident.
“I want to congratulate them for their positive attitude and the way they tried to calm things down”, added Bodiroga, while Glickman explained that to him, it was not a similar situation to the NBA’s malice at the palace back in 2004, since at that occasion, the players went against fans in the stands.
However, he also understands that the rules dictated the sanctions and he likes the idea of the current system with an independent judge. “I like this approach, I have no doubts about our judge’s integrity. What happened was unfortunate and will prompt a review of the rules and the whole system”.
“The standards need to be reevaluated”, added Bodiroga talking also about the non-postponement of the games in Greece and Serbia after national tragedies.
“Nobody neither from Serbia nor Greece asked for postponement”, explained Bodiroga so according to EuroLeague bylaws the games should be played. And that’s why bylaws may change sooner than later on this matter.
The expansion and the Dubai case
While next season nothing will change in the format of the EuroLeague and also of the EuroCup, it’s evident that expansion is coming.
“We are looking at Western European expansion”, said Glickman referring to the cases of Paris and London, however, there’s also the case of Dubai.
“It’s an opportunity we are looking into it also, we had discussions even recently, their representatives were present here, but it’s a very complicated situation since we are interested in the long-term planning of our league”, added Glikman with Bodiroga elaborating even more on the positives of the Dubai case.
“We have seen FIBA going to Qatar for the World Cup, there are big potentials, they have prepared everything and we really need to consider this option”, Bodiroga explained. The issue here is that practically there’s no timetable either for the expansion or for the talks with FIBA.
The EuroLeague lineup for next season and talks with FIBA
With nothing changing in the format next year both in the EuroLeague and the EuroCup, there’s a pretty good chance at this point that the lineup of the EuroLeague will remain the same if Gran Canaria forfeits their spot.
The EuroCup champions have not officially informed the EuroLeague of their intentions, but the financial burden especially for traveling with charter flights all over Europe, due to the geographical position of Gran Canaria, makes their possible participation very expensive.
If they finally decide that they don’t have the financial resources, then EuroLeague expects “the same teams for next year”, as Glickman said without any hesitation. Valencia is already EuroLeague-ready, in theory, Turk Telekom Ankara could be a candidate, but if Gran Canaria forfeits, then their spot becomes a wildcard and Valencia has the headstart in the race.
Meanwhile, the idea of the play-ins is getting traction – “I am an advocate”, said Glickman – even if this seems to complicate the calendar, which is the main issue with FIBA. It has to be noted on the other hand that the mentality from the EuroLeague – and also from FIBA – in the talks between the two sides is totally different than in the recent past.
“We are in contact, there’s a positive attitude, but we can’t solve in six months what has been happening for 20 years”, explained Gklickman without getting into details of the talks, while Bodiroga added that there obviously respect towards FIBA, the national federations and the national leagues from the EuroLeague management. “We have to grow basketball as a whole and this of course includes also the national teams”, said Bodiroga. Still, as mentioned earlier, there’s no timetable for the talks, so tangible results from the negotiations may still take time.
Kaunas, Panathinaikos, and first season in management
There’s no doubt that the Final Four in Kaunas was successful. However, traveling to the city from around Europe proved to be an issue and as an event, the Final Four may have overgrown cities like Kaunas or Vitoria.
For Marshall Glickman, even if that’s the case, there must be a balance between big cities in Europe that are hosting the Final Four and “bastions of basketball”, as he called Kaunas. With Berlin being already confirmed as a host next season, there seems to be a long waiting list that includes cities that will have new arenas soon – Valencia, Munich, Bologna, Barcelona, and even Madrid in the new Bernabeu which can now host indoor events – and of course, don’t forget the option of Dubai. “We need to find the balance between those cases”, added Glickman.
President Dejan Bodiroga had also some things to add about Panathinaikos, when asked about the relationship of the EuroLeague management with the club, especially after the recent fine, which reportedly was 725.000 euros.
Contrary to the recent past, there was no reaction from Panathinaikos against the management and Bodiroga explained his position: “Panathinaikos and the Giannakopoulos family (ed.note: Panathinaikos owners) have given to the EuroLeague a lot from the first moment. On the other hand, the standards need to be equal for everyone. What I can say is that the standards were not the same always. I have talked with them and also with all clubs”.
It’s a very different role being president compared to the player Dejan Bodiroga who dominated the EuroLeague at the start of the century. As he admitted: “I know that’s now more about the details behind the scenes. I didn’t pay attention to those details as a player. I see also how much things have changed all those years. What remains the same is the unique atmosphere of European basketball. And as you see more and more European players, Jokic, Doncic, and Giannis, are NBA stars. We have to use all those and together make the EuroLeague change level”.