By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
On Monday, FIBA will present the Basketball Champions League and Kamil Novak, FIBA Executive Director Europe, speaks to Eurohoops about the future of the European basketball and its club competitions.
After our exclusive Jordi Bertomeu interview, it’s time for the other side to present its arguments. On a time during which many clubs around Europe are joining the Euroleague project, FIBA will continue its own plans and as Novak explains the international federation “has full confidence that the sporting criterion within national leagues to qualify for the Basketball Champions League is the fundamental basis of our sport in Europe”.
Read what he has to say about the current form of the Basketball Champions League, in which every team will have to qualify via their national leagues, the tense relationship with Euroleague, the fact that FIBA is not willing to “punish” teams or their members for chosing the other side and the belief that the Champions League will be a success.
– In light of the recent announcements made by clubs and executives like Tony Parker which are openly joining Euroleague’s project, FIBA will go on as planned with two club competitions from next season, or there will be any changes to the plans?
“We fully respect the opinion of everybody, even more so if it comes from highly respected players who have given their life to our sport and has now the intention to invest strongly into his clubs. At the same time, FIBA firmly believes in its project and has full confidence that the sporting criterion within national leagues to qualify for the Basketball Champions League is the fundamental basis of our sport in Europe and cannot be jeopardized by anybody on the market. As planned, the Basketball Champions League will tip off for the 2016-17 season”.
– FIBA in collaboration with the national leagues has established the company which will govern the Basketball Champions League. That means that no club will get a direct spot in the competition, but they will have to qualify via their national leagues?
“Exactly. The sporting criterion is the fundamental principle for our national federations and the domestic leagues. Out of the 32 teams playing in the regular season, eight of them will qualify through an extensive qualification round. Four invitations can be allocated for this qualification round, which means that 52 out of 56 teams participating in the Basketball Champions League will earn their place through their sporting performance in their domestic league”.
– Do you think that there’s still room to work with Euroleague, since their side is always saying that they still want to have some kind of collaboration with you?
“FIBA is open to hold productive talks and conversations. We made concrete proposals last summer, including a true partnership with clubs and Euroleague. Regrettably, these were rejected and we are still waiting for Euroleague’s proposals on how to resolve the situation and work together harmoniously.
We have heard many times that they want FIBA to join their new project, but no concrete offer was ever made to us. Obviously we are not good enough as a partner for them”.
– You presented initially a format for the Champions League which was very similar to the new Euroleague project. What made you change your approach?
“FIBA’s initial proposal was completely different from the Euroleague model: the only similarity was the number of teams (16). Where Euroleague is very close to a closed league, FIBA’s format saw 50% of the clubs qualifying through their results in the domestic leagues: the sporting criterion is the fundamental principle for FIBA. At least 26 champions from 28 countries were participating in the qualification round. The total number of games was lower, and games were played in the middle of the week.
The general philosophy is completely different: FIBA’s was and remains the same: create a sound base for the future growth of European basketball while creating an exciting competition system that protects and reinforce the domestic leagues.
We believe that the current format of the Basketball Champions League is the best possible in the actual situation. We have developed a model that is very attractive and based on the sporting merits of domestic leagues. This is a joint effort with European leagues, clubs and National Federations, it’s not FIBA’s model. It’s great to have all basketball stakeholder working together to develop the best model for everybody”.
– Is FIBA willing to use its power and renounce Euroleague, Eurocup and all its members from FIBA competitions?
“We have been, currently are and wish to remain in a constructive phase, whether it was last year when we made proposals to Euroleague or now as we build a new club competition system.
Unfortunately, Euroleague seems to be more intent on ensuring that a very selective few remain in control of club basketball and share the benefits, thereby threatening with permanent exclusion any club or league that is not willing to register with them. It has resorted to bundling Euroleague spots with Eurocup ones.
FIBA wants to remain positive. However, European basketball can’t be held hostage by a few, although very respectable, stakeholders”.
– What’s your take on the complaint made by the Euroleague towards the EU and its competition committee?
“FIBA will submit its response in due course. It is not FIBA’s intention to sanction clubs. It is our role to inform our members about the dangers of the situation, support them and offer them alternatives. Each national federation should take the necessary steps at home to assess what is best for them. FIBA is not dictating to leagues and national federations what they have to do. It is their role to protect, if they so feel, the long term sustainability of their domestic competition, which is the most important asset of any national federation/ league and which may be destroyed.
Further, there has been exercised undue pressure on leagues and clubs by threatening exclusion from Euroleague unless they commit to Eurocup. Such practices were applied in the case of the Adriatic League and other European leagues. This constitutes abusive behaviour under EU and national laws. FIBA is considering to file its own complaint before the European Commission and use any tool to stop such behaviour and support our members. This is why we wrote to them two days ago inviting Euroleague to stop such actions”.
– What do you believe will be the future of the club competitions in Europe, specifically if there are rival continental leagues, like it happened in the past with the Euroleague and the Suproleague?
“The Basketball Champions League will definitely not be a private members’ club, with the ultimate objective to close the club and disassociate the teams from their domestic leagues, or maybe allow them to play only in playoff phases nationally. By placing the domestic leagues in a subordinated position and not developing synergies with them, Euroleague is forgetting that to grow the sport in Europe, you need to attract fans, sponsor and media in many domestic markets and keep growing local talents. The European basketball family is not happy with this model. Therefore, it is a responsible and inevitable course of action for FIBA to assist the large majority of its members and support a system that ensures the continued growth of basketball at national level, while also reinforcing a simple and permanent sporting structure of national and international competitions for clubs.
We heard last week that Euroleague will not assign wild cards but three days later it is announced that one spot for next year is already “sold”. In the Basketball Champions League, no sponsor can buy a spot for his team.
We are fully focused on the launch of the Basketball Champions League which we believe is the right way forward for the development and growth of the sport across Europe”.