By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The status of the European basketball and the chance of a unified front between FIBA and the EuroLeague was the main point of discussion in a special segment of the ARD Sports Forum. The longtime president of the German basketball federation, Ingo Weiss, the executive director of FIBA Europe, Kamil Novak, and ALBA Berlin’s managing director Marco Baldi talked openly on the matter on live television.
The consensus of the debate was that the conflict must end, and FIBA seems willing to bury the hatchet. Still, at this point, EuroLeague is hesitant to proceed in negotiations, being more than cautious.
“Four competitions in European basketball are simply too many, and I think we all agree on that,” said Kamil Novak, referring to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and the 7DAYS EuroCup from ECA’s side and the Basketball Champions League and the FIBA Europe Cup from FIBA. And he added: “What we said was: We have no problem. Let’s do it together. You will take the top competition with the best teams, and we will take the second. So we would have two events. And the only thing left would be to find a way to work together and coexist. This was rejected”.
“A two-speed EuroLeague”
Marco Baldi talked about the bigger picture, which would be a financial structure for global basketball that should start from the NBA and be connected even to the lesser domestic leagues: “In 2012 FIBA decided to introduce the concept of the “qualifying windows,” which was implemented in 2017. And then everything started to look like a tornado. Today, we have a two-speed Euroleague, which I’m personally critical of. There are eleven teams with guaranteed participation and some others that must qualify to play. In the end, I am convinced that quality will dominate. Basketball is the most global sport along with football. The hardest part for FIBA is – and it’s not for me to tell its people what to do – to build a global relationship, from the world’s most commercial league, the NBA, all the way to Luxembourg, wherever there is a professional league. This is the biggest issue that FIBA has to solve. ”
Weiss highlighted the issue of the missing EuroLeague players in the “windows”: “It’s good to have great basketball everywhere. I agree with Marco Baldi that the Euroleague is excellent. But I have to make one thing clear here: We have no problem with the Euroleague as a competition. We only have a problem with one company, such as the Euroleague, that does not allow players to compete in the national teams. It’s crazy to have national team games and clubs at the same time. It’s not good for the sport in general. “
The NBA issue
However, Baldi’s answer was simple: “The problem is that there is a system here that we find on the world market. If we want to bring in a player, we’re not the only ones. We have to fight with others who have the same ability to scout with us. And in this, the NBA plays the biggest role. We can’t get the NBA out of the debate. I think we can find a deal with the NBA. One hundred twenty non-US players are playing there, meaning 120 players cannot compete with their national teams in the “windows.” And FIBA has no problem with that. And since the NBA is a purely commercial company, there are ways to motivate them. Let me dream a little of this moment. “
And Baldi also added that the future is a closed league under some conditions: “I think basketball is a copy of football and that’s a closed league that is played all over Europe. If you look at football and the teams playing in the Champions League, you realize that ultimately, it is not so important who is the champion in his country. It is not decisive. However, I believe that a system that takes into account the sporting criteria is also necessary. I like this system a lot more. But you also have to meet certain conditions to play at the highest level. ”
The argument of Kamil Novak about the difference between FIBA and EuroLeague was the following: “Let’s talk a little bit about clarifying the numbers while listening to the NBA talk. We don’t need to hide anything, and I’m sure everyone will understand. The NBA is a business that makes $9 billion a year. In Europe, Euroleague makes 40 and FIBA 100, a total of 140 million euros. Can any comparison be made? I agree with Mr. Baldi that it would be good to have the NBA involved in everything. But it isn’t happening. We can’t even see this coming in the future, and that’s something we have to accept. This is a fact. I wish the Euroleague had 100 million revenues, but we are not there yet, and it doesn’t matter what the reason is. I want more money for everyone in Europe. But they don’t exist. “
It’s a well-documented fact that the EuroLeague doesn’t accept any collaboration offer, which includes qualifying windows during the season. According to Weiss, that must change for FIBA to make a push for inclusion of the NBA players in the windows: “Of course we have to talk about the NBA. The next step, though, is to talk to ECA and Euroleague. And as president of the federation, I have to say that the biggest blow is the fact that we are calling the Euroleague to find solutions and all they say is: “Thank you very much, we will not do it. We are stronger than you”. You can’t come to any compromise that way. We fully agree that we should talk to the NBA. But first, we need to talk and solve the European problem. Only stronger can we do so, instead of moving away from each other and continue banging our heads”.