By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The EuroLeague Players Association (ELPA) registered its first major milestone on the crucial matter of the EuroLeague calendar of next season.
While this calendar has already created a reaction in Spain and also a new agreement between FIBA and the Union of European Leagues (ULEB), the managing director of ELPA Bostjan Nachbar believes that it’s a step towards the right direction and other steps in the same direction – the protection of the players – will be taken and announced soon.
– With the new calendar, the season is longer. It was a worthy trade-off in order to avoid the workload of two extra double-games weeks?
“The EuroLeague season is two weeks longer, but for a EuroLeague player, a full season also includes playing in the domestic competitions. Those start earlier and end later. The projected number of double-game weeks for the next season was 9, and that was concerning to us since that can mean that some players play up to 4 games in 8 days. We managed to reduce that number to a total of seven double-game weeks. Additionally, two of those will have a “home-home” or “away-away” format. Meaning that both games in the double game week will be played either at home or away. We also insist that the road games in those weeks should be played in the same area of Europe, which would reduce travels. This the direction we would like to proceed.
If we could, we would secure even a smaller number of double game weeks, but at this time, it was not possible. We will monitor next season closely and listen to players’ reactions and comments. If necessary we will push for re-adjustment of the calendar for future seasons”.
– It’s obvious that there’s no opening for the FIBA Eurobasket qualifiers windows. What’s the position of ELPA on the matter?
“The FIBA and EuroLeague calendar issue precede the creation of ELPA. We have the competence to negotiate only with EuroLeague, not FIBA. If or when the majority of EuroLeague players will actively want to participate in this issue and their voice on this matter represent a united one, we will make sure it is heard. Personally, I still think some players are not aware how much their voice actually matters and it is my personal goal to change that and make them aware of it”.
– Do you feel that in the future a further EuroLeague expansion should also be accompanied by a change in the competition format, since a season of 38 rounds may end up being too long?
“Possibly, yes. We will always weigh all options and express our opinion on this matter from a players’ point of view. Too many times in the past, big changes in the competition were being made without consulting with players. At the same time, players must be aware that in order to grow the competition and basketball business, periodically changes have to be made. But from now on it should be with the player’s understanding and approval”.
– One of the issues that were part of the talks, was delays in payments. What extra measures the ELPA and the EuroLeague can take on this front?
“We will gladly explain improvements in this area shortly. We are finalizing changes in the area of the overdue salary payment dispute process”.
– Can there be a standardized EuroLeague contract that addresses all those issues following the NBA model?
“This is one of our main goals. We are positive that we can negotiate on this issue with the upcoming collective bargaining agreement”.
– With the training camp regulation by the deal achieved, how long the season really would be for the EuroLeague players?
“Too long. This is why we are actively searching for ways to reduce the players’ workload. It is not a secret that we are pushing for more regulated and shorter training camp and also some much-needed practice restrictions, improved travel conditions and in case of injuries – a detailed neutral second medical opinion protocol”.
– Since the travel conditions are a financial matter is there a way to ensure that Euroleague teams will be able to afford charter planes etc?
“For now, that is up to individual clubs and their financial capabilities. I think that with even tighter cooperation between clubs some consensus could be made on sharing private planes, similar to what the NBA has been doing for years. But we absolutely agree, that as seasons become tougher and competition gets bigger, EuroLeague and their clubs should start actively searching for options on how to offer charter flights for most, if not all travels. Players’ rest and their recovery time should be a priority”.
– And of course what’s your reaction on the position of the Spanish players association (ABP) which imply that ELPA can’t represent Spanish players because ABP doesn’t consider you an independent union.
“ELPA is an independent association, and as well as ABP’s our only interest is the player. The only difference is that ABP is protecting them in ACB league, and we do it in Euroleague. We share the view the burden on the players is too heavy, and all the associations representing them must strive to do everything they can, preferably together, for a better regeneration and more rest. We act on decisions from our Player’s Board, as well as on input from Player Representatives of each team. They are – and they always will be – deciding on proposals that we present to EuroLeague”.