By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
With the season already started in Lithuania, VTB United League, and Spain, after an unprecedented summer due to the coronavirus crisis, not much has changed in the ranking of the European domestic Leagues.
What has changed drastically, however, is that all the Leagues must find ways to survive in the COVID era, and in most cases, things are not looking good. A packed calendar, the absence of ticketing revenues, and a gap between the big clubs which have resources to navigate throughout the pandemic and those who simply can’t, create a totally unbalanced landscape.
It was obvious even before last season’s events that domestic leagues must make leaps of progress, as FIBA secretary general Andreas Zagklis has said. That’s not the case and the dire needs of the clubs during the pandemic may create new realities inside the European basketball pyramid, especially when revenues from the domestic leagues are not comparable with those from the continental competitions.
Once more, the same leagues are included in the Top10 with Belgium and Poland missing the cut. It has to be noted that those two leagues are very well organized, but the absence of notable local talent and also very limited budgets is the reason that once more they are left out.
- ACB Liga Endesa – Spain (-)
- VTB United League (-)
- BSL – Turkey (-)
- Lega Basket Serie A– Italy (+1)
- Jeep ELITE ProA – France (-1)
- Easy credit BBL -Germany (-)
- HEBA Basket League – Greece (-)
- Adriatic League (-)
- Winner’s League – Israel (-)
- LKL – Lithuania (-)
While the direct revenues from Liga Endesa remain limited – roughly 600.000 euros per club – Spain is the golden standard for domestic European basketball leagues. The talent is there, there’s a strong union and a CBA – which is missing even from the EuroLeague – and a new television deal for the next three seasons, a continuation of the collaboration with Movistar+.
The league managed to complete last season with a summer “bubble” in Valencia, there’s strong interest from basketball fans all around Europe, and 2020-21 has already started with an active COVID protocol which so far seems to be working, even if some games will have to be postponed. There’s no stronger argument in Europe about the need for strong domestic leagues than Spain.
VTB United League
It remains the most wealthy league in Europe and that means top talent and top clubs. With three EuroLeague teams for the second straight season and clear indications that the season will play out with a – limited – number of fans attending the games, VTB has positioned itself near the top. Probably the only difference between them and Spain remains the fact that the mainstream audience in Russia has not yet put basketball among their top priorities.
The duo of Fenerbahce and Anadolu Efes are saving the pride of the Turkish BSL which remains a mixed bag with the top teams distancing themselves from the rest of the league by leaps and bounces. Still, you can make a case that the overall quality of the league remains the best outside Spain and VTB.
On the other hand, the fact that Bandirma was forced to withdraw from the league can’t be considered a good sign and there’s an obvious decline compared to the best years of the BSL.
Strangely enough, Italy, one of the countries which were devastated by coronavirus, has a league which is on the rise. Of course, there’s a flip side to that and it’s the fact that the other domestic leagues are facing huge issues.
Still, having two clubs like Olimpia Milan and Segafredo Virtus Bologna which are big spenders by any standard, and a solid plan for the COVID-era which produced a 16-team league and an extended version of the Supercup, are more than encouraging signs. Legabasket is currently gunning for third position and Turkey’s place.
The French league remains among the best organized among Europe and while they suffered a blow after the end of their previous five-year television deal, they found a solution that may help them in the long run.
More than 40 select games will be televised by “La Chaîne L’Équipe”, the free-to-air television channel of the iconic newspaper “L’Équipe” plus all the games will be broadcasted via the internet for free. And while the clubs will miss ticketing revenues, the prediction so far is that the budgets will drop just by 6%. That means that the clubs have solid marketing departments and also that basketball in France has strong local roots in the cities where the traditional teams of the league are located. If that also included Paris, then the league would have been stronger.
BBL clubs are spending what they are earning and this kind of fiscal responsibility is admirable. At the same time, it can’t help the league grow. Without ticketing revenues, just four German clubs will play this year in continental competitions, the season will start in November, and in most cases, the budgets will be lower than ever.
Even Bayern Munich is expected to spend less money and only ALBA Berlin has announced that they will have the same budget compared to last year. So, a league that was considered once one of the more balanced in Europe will have two clear favorites in ALBA Berlin and Bayern.
It has also to be noted that the naming sponsor EasyCredit recently re-new their deal until 2024, there’s also a solid television contract and the 2019-20 season was completed with a “bubble” in Munich. Still, the German league is hurt.
The open wound of Olympiacos not being in the league remains and things are not looking good for an organization which early in the summer announced a format of 16 teams only to have at this point 13 confirmed participants with one of them, Panionios, not having a roster yet.
The only bright spot is that finally there will be centralized television rights in the league, but AEK and Panathinaikos who left their private television rights deal will get the lion’s share, meaning almost half of the contract, leaving to the rest of the teams a sum around two million euros to share. That’s not an improvement compared to last year. Greece is not part of the third tier, simply because of the brands of Greek basketball.