Garbajosa: “EuroLeague is a great competition, but other leagues are too”

2024-02-20T18:11:45+00:00 2024-02-21T09:22:18+00:00.

Nikola Miloradovic

20/Feb/24 18:11

Jorge Garbajosa, the president of FIBA Europe, engaged in a session with European basketball media, delving into a variety of topics

By Eurohoops team/

FIBA Europe president Jorge Garbajosa discussed various topics during the conversation with the European basketball media, including the upcoming February FIBA window for national team qualifiers.

EuroLeague players are now able to assist their national teams during the season, which wasn’t the case on previous occasions since the calendars are not interfering for the first time. This signals an improvement in the conversations between FIBA and the EuroLeague.

The atmosphere during the meeting is extremely collaborative and positive. I have to say sometimes it’s not easy to find agreements because there are many different interests on both sides of the table, let’s say. But when you have a good atmosphere and when you approach the meeting with the behavior to try to find agreements, it is much easier or less difficult. But the worst situation that a player can go through is having to choose between playing for his national team or playing for his club. And with this situation of this February, we avoided it. So I truly believe, because I also talked to some of them, the players received this message in such a positive way. As I said in the beginning, it’s just for this window; we have to work even harder for the next ones.”

Garbajosa also noted that the new management of the EuroLeague helped to change the attitude in the talks.

Having new management in EuroLeague with Mr. Bodiroga and Mr. Montejulas now helps. But also, the clubs are changing. New clubs are coming into the competition, new leadership in the competition, and we understood that we need to collaborate, which means collaboration.

Finding a solution that would keep all sides satisfied wasn’t easy.

It’s so difficult because the year, at the end of the day, is 365 days, and we have to find the room for the national team competitions, for the international competitions in Europe, not only EuroLeague but also BCL, also EuroCup. And then there’s one player who is truly important for us, which are the national leagues, the domestic leagues. The domestic leagues are the beginning of everything, where the players develop themselves when they’re young. And the national teams used to be or are always the consequence of the good health of the national and domestic league.”

The President of FIBA Europe is optimistic about the future.

We had the FIBA committee last Sunday, and I said to all the members in the beginning, I was not as optimistic as I am today. I’m very proud of basketball in Europe. I have to say that for me, it’s an order to be comprehensive by Europe because Europe is and has to be in the future to keep being better, said the leader of basketball worldwide. We all respect the NBA. We all respect all the continents that have an extremely good relationship with all the other presidents, but basketball is Europe, probably the best, probably the best national teams. You saw that the current world champion is European.

The number of club competitions

It’s obvious that FIBA Europe wants to protect every competition and put an emphasis to the domestic leagues. However, Garbojosa admits that there are too many club competitions in Europe.

You know, when we talk about the calendar, it is not only about finding a spot during the EuroLeague season for the windows; it’s not that simple. It’s much more complicated. We’re discussing the 3-4 competitions. Club competitions in Europe are too many. We’re talking about the EuroLeague, we’re talking about this year, we’re talking about the EuroCup, and we are talking about the FIBA Europe Cup. So we also have to define what kind of competitions we want in Europe, combining with the domestic leagues, with the national leagues that they have to have their value and their room to develop themselves.”

Still,, support for the domestic leagues is essential for FIBA Europe.

We saw the ACB league. We talked not only about that but also about the Italian League, the German League, the Turkish League, and the Lithuanian League. They are getting better and better and better, and we have to support them to be better in the future. Because again, as I understand and allow me to say this way is very informal, the domestic leagues are your bread and butter of every single day.

Garbajosa believes that it is important to redefine all the pyramids of the competition.

We have to protect the fans. The fans want to watch basketball, but sometimes they don’t even know what they’re watching because there are many teams, many games, and many competitions. So we have to redefine all the pyramids of the competitions, combining both continental and domestic leagues plus national teams in the way that we protect the player and also increase the number of funds and encourage the funds to follow our competitions. I truly believe that the EuroLeague is a great competition. It’s a very good competition, but this year also, the ACB league, Italian league, German league or Turkish league are extremely good competitions. We have to redefine how to set it up during the year, during the calendar to increase the value of the players of this, of this game or ecosystem in Europe.”

He also talked about the Basketball Champions League progression and focused on all the countries that are under FIBA Europe.

BCL is becoming amazing just in their eighth year of competition. Then we have the FIBA Europe Cup, which is a very large competition, with almost 35 countries participating in the last year. So we have to find a spot for everyone, and also we have to understand the class mentality, not only with the big ones. Not only with all my respect to Real Madrid; I played in Real Madrid, and I have a huge respect for this organization. But we also have to take care of the not-so-big countries who want to have a goal to achieve, to become better, to be better every single year, to attract more investors, to attract more fans. So having this kind of pyramid of competitions, all of them coming from the domestic leagues, is crucial for me.

The possible merger between BCL and EuroCup and the Dubai expansion

There was talk about a potential merger between BCL and EuroCup, however, Garbajosa confirmed that everything is on the table with no decision taken so far and that extends also to Dubai.

We discussed it in a previous meeting. We will keep discussing it. I would not put a name as a merge competition because we have to define it. It’s not easy because we’re talking about broadcasting contracts. We are talking about the sponsorship, naming the sponsorship contract,

The first reflection or the first thought should be, again, that four competitions are too much in Europe. I truly believe it. So if we understand usually of the top competition, if we understand FIBA, EuroCup, the large competition where clubs like, I don’t know, Varese or Zaragoza, good clubs but they need to participate in Europe to increase their value, fans, broadcasting and so on. What we have in the middle, and again BCL shows that in eight years it’s a great competition. Not only, as you can see, with the level of attendance, the level of the players, the level of the clubs, it’s also. So this year is a very good competition, and it’s obvious it has to be better.

But the important thing is we have to understand that, in my personal opinion, four competitions are too much. If we understand EuroCup, if we understand the BCL competition, we have to redefine how to combine bodies. I have good respect for EuroCup. But honestly, if we could find an interconnection again between the three competitions in Europe plus connected with the domestic leagues, for me, it’s not that important, it’s important but not that important if it’s a merge or if it’s BCL. It’s a kind of finding a common sense, a structure of our competitions in Europe.

Garbajosa also shared his thoughts on Dubai potentially joining the EuroLeague, practically expressing the institutional view of FIBA on the matter.

The key word with what you said is rumors. What I heard is rumors, and all we heard about it is discussed in every table of basketball in Europe. But I didn’t see any kind of proposal or agreement or anything. First of all, as the president of FIBA Europe, I kind of don’t like that a club from another continent comes to our continent’s competition. I mean, it’s EuroLeague. So in principle, it makes no sense for me as the president of FIBA Europe. Then if this finally happens, we have to see how the impact of this new scenario in Europe, how it’s going to affect the travel of the players, the clubs, how it’s going to impact the finances of the clubs, and the rest of the clubs in Europe. But if this finally happened, we have to see again, as you said, I just think this would mean that one European club is going to be out of the competition. That would mean that they will have 19 clubs. We don’t know,” Garbajosa said.

Last but not least, Garbajosa addressed the issue of buyouts inside the whole basketball ecosystem, adding that the NBA can help basketball in total. When asked if that can be the key in a total agreement between all involved parties, he smiled and said: “I wish it can be that simple. What I have to say, however, is that, since I recently met with Baltic and Nordic countries, you have to give back something to those producing players, which can then transfer to bigger European clubs, to the NCAA and to the NBA. Of course, the NCAA is a private entity, so we may need a separate deal, but we must find a formula from which financially everyone gets something back. I know the NBA, I played there and they are a fair organization, so I believe this can be possible”.