By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Euroleague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu arrived in Israel on Thursday to attend Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv’s Turkish Airlines Euroleague home opener at Menora Mivtachim Arena against Unicaja Malaga. Earlier in the evening, Maccabi FOX president Shimon Mizrahi introduced Mr. Bertomeu to Israeli media for a press conference. What follows is a transcript of his comments:
“It’s a real pleasure to keep the tradition of coming to Tel Aviv and enjoying the hospitality of Maccabi. I think this year it’s important to point out that for the first time in European basketball history, two European clubs went to the [United] States to play back-to-back games in Chicago and New York and that’s thanks to the initiative and idea and commitment of Maccabi Tel Aviv. It’s a very important fact that for this first time in our history this happened in New York and Chicago. I think it’s really promising first the step to promote and expand the visibility and awareness of the league and our teams in such a big market.
“The second thing is that this year is the first time, the first season that the financial play regulations will be in place. After three years of transition, it is already enforced. There are three people in charge to monitor the accounts of the clubs and we believe that it will be helpful to have our teams in a more sustainable situation from a financial point of view. We cannot expect the first season to have everything solved, that’s for sure, but I want to tell you that we are on the right track. We achieved this very important goal for us to have our clubs sustainable from a financial point of view.
“The third is that this season we have a new criteria to distribute the revenues of the Euroleague. I think the clubs made a great effort to understand that after 12 years it’s time to change and have a more fair system, which basically will allow us to reward more the good results and the good performances of our teams on the court. The current system will deliver more revenues to our clubs, because in addition to the new system to distribute, we have more revenues thanks to the growth of our business, so I think that is another new aspect.
“The last one, which is as important. Because one of our main goals is how to reach more fans and we have fans not only at the courts but also on TV, when the new technologies give us more opportunity, we just signed a new partnership with a company, NeuLion, a leader in the sector of streaming and working with many professional leagues – the NBA, NFL, Premier League and from now on the Euroleague. With NeuLion we will deliver our on-line streaming to mobile devices and connected devices worldwide. We hope all the Maccabi fans living far from Israel will have the opportunity to subscribe to the season pass to follow all the Euroleague games through this new system. ”
About the structure of the league
“It’s true that since June 2011, the clubs had a deep discussion about the future of the league. Since then it was agreed that one of the main goals of the Euroleague was to become a true league. A true league means to have a system in which all the teams can meet the rest of the participating teams. Of course so far we couldn’t. With the problems for the clubs’ calendars, that has been impossible. But that has been the goal. The current system of the competition was a clear sign that we were moving towards this direction. When we changed the Top 16 format to have two groups of eight, it was clear that that was the path to follow for the next years. This evolution should come sooner than later. I want to point out that comes from 2011, not two months ago. And now we are discussing with the clubs how we can make this evolution happen. Round-robin competition with 24 clubs means that it will be almost impossible, otherwise we will damage the calendar of the domestics leagues, which is something that we want to protect. We are in discussion internally to figure out this new structure, probably for next season. But it is too early to talk about the details. We are trying to define the basic elements, because moving from 24 to 16 is not an easy thing to do. So we need discuss with all the stake-holders, all the people involved and when we have all the opinions, the clubs will meet and decide, because in the end those are the ones in our system who take the decisions, not third parties.”
About conflict with FIBA
“Of course it’s true, we cannot deny the rumor that FIBA has been very active in the last months sending messages around that they want to take over the competition. I think that everybody knows that this comes from our discrepancy regarding the calendar when they approved introducing windows during the clubs’ competition periods. So probably they believe that by taking over the competition, they will solve the calendar issue. The only thing I can say is that the clubs were very clear and straightforward in July; they sent a clear message that have been working very hard for 15 years to build the Euroleague and now is no point to give up and go back to what was the system 15 or 20 years ago. This is where we are. I am optimistic that with FIBA there is still room to find solutions regarding calendars and all these things. I think in the next months we will see if there is real room for this agreement.”
On financial fair play
“What we did is, for three years we have been working with clubs in order to have what we can call a homogenous picture of the accounts of clubs, because we have 12 countries involved with 12 different regulations and different systems of working within the clubs. So now after these three years, the financial fair play regulations are applied from this season, 2015-16. Which means that at the end of the season, we will review the accounts of the clubs and we will see if they fulfill the goals set years ago. And if not, it depends on what kind of unfulfillment. Some of them can be solved; most of them can be solved. Financial fair play regulations are basically about not spending more than you earn. So it depends the amount or the dimension of the losses. We have to establish some sort of recovery plan. Another question is how much we can allow the shareholders to be involved in the budgets of the clubs, because this is one of the main concerns we have, to reduce the impact of the shareholders in the current budgets of the clubs. Because we need to promote the real business, not have someone who is subsidizing the clubs with no return. There are rules like an even budget to ensure that the teams are competitive. For example we have a criteria that play salaries can’t be more than 65% of the total budget. Those are the aspects that we are going to review.”
On why there are four Turkish teams in the Euroleague this season
“I think we cannot deny the fact that Turkey is one of the few countries where basketball is growing in a more obvious way. So we have teams that are more and more competitive, teams with bigger budgets and solid projects. And now we have young, but promising projects in Turkey. It’s a huge market in terms of population and its one of the biggest TV contracts we have in Euroleague. So there are reasons for us to protect the Turkish market as we protect the German market and French market. For us they are strategic markets. So you cannot forget that back to Germany, many years ago we had only one team from Germany with very poor results at the European level. But we have been investing in Germany, working with the league and now we have two teams in Germany and both are competitive. This year ALBA Berlin is not in the Euroleague, but it has in recent years. This year we gave the wildcard to Bayern Munich. At a certain point, when we allocate the spots for the national leagues, it’s about what is more convenient for the system. Not looking at the next season, but looking at the middle- and long-term. That is why we allocated a fourth team, because we had the A licenses and the champion. It is true that we said this is the last time the Turkish champion will be in the league if they don’t create a professional league. Turkey is the only one in the league that they don’t have a professional league. The competition is run by the federation. We sent this message as according with the Euroleague regulations.”
On why Hapoel Jerusalem did not get a Euroleague spot
“It’s not a matter to compare Hapoel Jerusalem with Darussafaka. That never was the discussion in the board. The discussion was whether we wanted to focus on a strategic market or not. So with all due respect to Hapoel Jerusalem, that was not the only reason. The reason is a combination of different arguments. It’s true that now Hapoel is trying to develop a very interesting project, but we have to establish the rules in the right sense. To be in the Euroleague and then invest is not the right way to do things. First of all you have to prove you are competitive and then you will have the opportunity. Hapoel Jerusalem now they have a very nice and big arena, but last year was the first time they were Israeli champions, so we are talking about this situation. And they didn’t even go to the second phase of the Eurocup. So when we compare, if we had the runner-up of the Eurocup and as you say, another Turkish team, we have more elements. But it is first a combination of considerations that have to be taken into account, including which markets are interesting for us. I want to tell you that it was not an easy solution. It was probably one of the biggest debates inside the board and it was not a consensus. I am lucky to handle most situations by consensus, but it was not the case this time.”