By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Basketball Champions League is using this summer as an opportunity to further build upon what’s already achieved. With a solid financial boost provided to the mid-tier clubs, BCL is making a strong case, especially for the clubs which have European ambitions but don’t want to overspend in order to be competitive.
And while there are questions about a change of course from the principals of the competition, BCL CEO Patrick Comninos gives the answers and explains what the addition of new clubs means, the Panathinaikos case, how the Final Eight may affect next season and what the new partnership with US sports and media investors GCBH LP brings to the table.
– Do you think that the Final Eight teams will get a head start in the regular season?
The recent pandemic has created a novel and unique situation on so many different levels… We will be concluding the 2019-20 season with the Final Eight a few days before starting the new season and that, inevitably, is a novelty where we need to see the impact that this will have on the court for all participating clubs. Let’s not forget that four teams that are potential participants to the Final Eight (Burgos, Tenerife, and Zaragoza from Spain and Hapoel Jerusalem from Israel) will be soon resuming the current national league competition which will conclude in a few weeks’ time… All of these factors will certainly play a role in how teams will present themselves when the 2020-21 season begins.
– Do you expect next season to mark a new era for the competition, because of the qualify of the clubs involved?
Next season will certainly be the most competitive in the very short history of the BCL; we are only four years old! With more than 60 clubs registering to participate in the upcoming season, we are very pleased that some of Europe’s best clubs are joining the BCL and we are hopeful that the competitiveness that we will see on the courts will reward fans.
We feel that during this crisis FIBA and the BCL have demonstrated that we provide a model that is welcomed by many clubs as it offers the opportunity to plan their future with a level of certainty and financial stability.
– It’s not clear yet whether or not Panathinaikos will choose to participate in Euroleague or BCL, but in any case, BCL is ready to welcome and to afford Panathinaikos, or any other high-level team in its competition?
As already mentioned, we have a long-term vision to develop the BCL and a demonstrated commitment to offer to clubs the best possible conditions for participating in a top-level competition.
The appreciation towards these efforts as demonstrated by the recent statements of the owner of Panathinaikos is another vote of confidence that encourages all of us to pursue this vision and we are ready to welcome any club that wishes to participate in our competition.
– So far BCL has stably promoted a rational financial management model. How do you think that the bonuses can be implemented in BCL’s strategy?
One of the key values of the BCL from its inception in 2016 has been that sports performance is the only aspect that matters and that all financial rewards will be linked exclusively to results on the court. Our strategy remains consistent and all clubs know that winning the BCL comes with a significant prize of 1m euros.
In addition, and taking into consideration the very close collaboration that the BCL has with the national leagues, we also offer financial incentives for clubs that perform at the highest level at their domestic competitions. We have always stressed the importance of strong and competitive national leagues and our approach makes the results in that environment matter and every position at the final league standing count.
– Are you ready to leave out teams that do not meet the competition criteria, such as the 10th Strasbourg, in the French League?
Participation in the BCL has always been directly linked to the results of the domestic leagues. This year, however, we have to take into account the unique situation that was created by COVID-19 and the fact that many leagues have not declared a champion or validated a final classification.
In such instances, we also have the opportunity to rely on the BCL Club Ranking that, effectively, calculates the on-court performance of all clubs over the last seasons. Strasbourg, for instance, represents a league that has not crowned a champion nor declared an official ranking. But, they remain the only French club that has participated in all four seasons of the BCL, which means that during the past years the club has always performed consistently at the French League.
– Is the offer of multi-year agreements an abandonment of the commitment for meritocratic participation?
Long-term agreements have been part of the BCL and its strategy since the early stages of the competition and it is not something new. These agreements are meant to provide both parties with a level of certainty and the opportunity to plan accordingly, which should be an essential prerequisite for all clubs around Europe and not the privilege of a few. This way the club controls its destiny and knows, from the start of each season, what it will take to safeguard European participation.
Such agreements are in full alignment with our core values about meritocratic participation as they are dependant and conditional on a club’s successful performance in the domestic league. If a club that has such an agreement does not perform well in its national competition, there will be no guaranteed place for them in the Basketball Champions League.
– Is there an economic plan for the new season that justifies the investment made by the organization?
Our business model is one that has a long-term vision; we are not just focusing on the upcoming season. We have recently entered into a partnership whose aim is to continue to support the national leagues and grow the BCL as part of FIBA’s global strategy to strengthen club competitions around the globe. The launch of the BCL Americas and the partnership with the NBA for the development of the Basketball African League are some examples of this strategy.
The fact that the Winner of the BCL has the opportunity to represent the European continent in the FIBA Intercontinental Cup – where for the first time the NBA is represented through the participation of the NBA G-League champions – is indicative of the importance that such a global vision plays in the development of the BCL.
– What role are American investors called to play? Will they contribute financially or only to know-how?
As mentioned when this new partnership was announced, we are extremely pleased that our efforts over the past years have attracted the interest of investors that bring both financial backing and a great experience and know-how that will allow us to further grow the competition. The presence of partners with a proven track record, that have extensive experience in the basketball world through direct investment in NBA franchises and who, like us, see the great potential in European club basketball, is a vote of confidence towards the work that has been done by leagues and clubs during these past years in order to establish the BCL as a credible competition.
– With the relatively little money that the BCL is currently giving, is it possible for a Euroleague team to prefer it?
At this stage, we are focusing on the growth of the BCL and the support it offers to all leagues around Europe and the hundreds of clubs that participate in them. We firmly believe that in order for club basketball in Europe to reach its full potential, organic growth across the continent is required.
Clubs that participate in the Euroleague propose a different model that is exclusive rather than inclusive and whose financial viability remains to be proven. We feel that there will come a time in the coming years where the different models will be assessed and clubs will make their selection based on what each approach represents.
– With the awarding of “transfers” of clubs, are there issues of competition within the national championships?
National Championships remain a key partner of the BCL. Unfortunately, however, not all of them are in a position to guarantee that the Champion or runner up of the domestic league will participate in the BCL, which would, obviously, allow for an approach that rewards each Champion or runner-up and not specific clubs.
The current model proposed by the BCL remains the only one that values and rewards a club’s performance in the national championship and that has been highly appreciated by the organizers of these competitions.