By Nikos Varlas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Eurohoops met up with Jordi Bertomeu in Istanbul last week during the 15 years milestone celebration and had the chance to put some very particular questions to the Euroleague CEO concerning some very serious unresolved issues.
First up, regarding the facts of the economic development of the Euroleague. In the last two years they have produced a large increase in their revenues. The Spaniard has expressed a clear opinion. The Euroleague has higher revenues than FIBA at this moment and no basketball body can compete with the “Champions League” of the sport that resides in the USA and is the NBA!
“The last basketball World Cup was the most successful one in history. It had a huge contrast in revenues, 35 times less, than the Mundial in Brazil. This is the difference with football, compared to all other sports. If we compare this season’s revenues in the Euroleague, they are twice as much as those of the recent tournament in Spain.
The charting of sports in the financial sector is simple. In football FIFA runs and determines everything. In basketball the NBA has that role. FIBA cannot do what FIFA does. That role belongs to the NBA.”
“You cannot have a tournament without the best”
The willingness of FIBA to establish the qualifiers in their tournaments – it’s going ahead despite the reactions – is the bone of contention and may become the starting point for the new break in basketball. Jordi Bertomeu elaborates on why, in his opinion, this project doesn’t make sense.
“The qualifiers are a big issue. The teams, the national leagues and of course the coaches don’t want the qualifiers. They call them ‘FIBA virus’ because a lot of the time the players come back injured. The main problem of the project that FIBA wants to promote with the qualifiers? They will force the national teams to compete without the participation of the NBAers. When you want to present a good tournament to the people you have to have the best players available. Can you imagine us trying to sell the Euroleague product with junior teams? It’s almost the same thing. It doesn’t make sense.
Believe me, it’s the national leagues that have the biggest problem with the calendar. The Euroleague, despite believing that it is wrong, includes fewer games than the championships and can find a solution in their calendar.”
We asked the executive director of the league how he interprets the economic situation in Greece and his position is encouraging.
“Greece has become the symbol of the crisis, but we have good TV contracts there and a lot of tickets for the games of your teams when they play at home. We haven’t felt the crisis with regard to the financial collaboration that we have.”
How will the Euroleague handle the situation after 2017? When the salary cap of the NBA teams will increase and widen the financial gap of the two worlds? Common sense says that the best league in Europe will lose even more players.
Thankfully, there is a – numeric – limit
“It’s true that that is going to happen. We believe though that the increase of the salary cap in the NBA will not affect more than it already does the rest of the basketball world. Their economy moves in different speeds. The NBA is above everyone in world basketball in terms of money.
We want to improve the program that we offer the clubs and the players. But the desire of the players to play there will never change. Just like a player from Paraguay or Argentina who dreams of leaving and playing for a Champions League team. The NBA of football is in Europe and of basketball in the USA.
The best football talents in the world end up in Europe. The best talents in basketball go to the NBA. But everything has a limit. Numerically, the availability limit in the NBA will stay the same. Fifteen players in 30 teams. It used to be that there was only one direction of transportation. Now there are players that are coming from the NBA to play in Europe.
The English Premier League has the best TV broadcasting rights in football. It’s half the amount of that in the NBA! If a team from the USA wants a player, they will get him. Maybe from 2017 onwards, instead of offering three times as much, they’ll offer five times as much.”
He remembered Papanikolaou!
“A classic recent example is Papanikolaou! He’s a great player. He played in one of the best teams in Europe, Olympiacos. He moved to Barcelona and there he signed a much better contract. Now, he’s in Houston. He plays roughly 10 minutes on average and receives a sum that is 3 times higher than what he got in Europe!
This is the evaluation of players by the NBA clubs based on their revenues and we can’t compete with that. We have to be realistic. I love Papanikolaou but while he had a big contract and a good role with an average of 6 points in Barcelona, he signed for a much larger sum of money with the Rockets. They overpay the players because they have the ability to do so.”