By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
While most domestic leagues in Europe with few exceptions are on a downhill slope, the Liga Endesa is still thriving. The Spanish ACB league remains the gold standard to which all other local European leagues are measured and Eurohoops talked with ACB president Antonio Martin about the present and the future of European basketball.
The conversation was immensely interesting and not limited to the open issues between the EuroLeague and the Spanish league but branched out into many subjects. Even to a personal matter, the tragic loss of his brother, the legendary Spanish forward Fernando Martin and, of course, to the state of European basketball in general.
– You traveled to the Basketball Champions League Final Four. How was your stay in Antwerp?
“Very good. I’m pleased because we have Spanish teams in the main European competitions. Tenerife played in the Final Four of the BCL and they’re working very well towards the completion of their effort with an appearance in one more Champions League final. It’s a competition I appreciate very much and I would like to give out thanks for the invitation to this big event, as we had the opportunity to talk about basketball and enjoy a wonderful atmosphere in an impressive arena.”
– I won’t hide that I’ve always wanted to ask you something personal… How much do you miss your brother and is the fact that you ended up working in an administrative position in basketball something that Fernando would have wanted if he was still with us?
“Imagine that next December will mark exactly 30 years since his loss. But for me, it feels like yesterday. It’s very hard for me. Still. After the first years following his death – which affected us greatly – passed, all the memories we have of Fernando are good. Concerning your second question, I don’t think that is the case. There was no doubt that he was the kind of person that, after retiring from basketball, he’d never think of working in basketball again. He’d do other things, like me. I’ve worked in finance for more than 10 years, then I returned to Real Madrid as the general manager and later I worked in my companies and my projects for a long time. Now I have returned because I thought there is room for improvement in Spanish basketball, from the side of the ACB. They gave me the opportunity to do it and I had to try it.”
– What is your number one priority as president of the ACB?
“We don’t know how to understand the younger generations. The young kids, the 18-year-olds, see basketball in a different way. They use so many screens in their lives. This is why the NBA sells basketball exactly as they do. And if we talk about football, it’s exactly the same. Basketball is a product that has to adapt to new tendencies. It’s not easy because, at a certain point, there might be a great competition with the presence of excellent players and maybe we’ll think that is enough. But it’s not. We haven’t been able to reach out to young people. What happens on the court is important, but we’re not doing the right thing in order to offer the sponsors the product that they want. Right now we’re living in a culture that has entirely different habits compared to what was going on 25 years ago. We have to arrive at the present. Our fans don’t want logos in capital letters anymore. They want images and that is what we are going to give them.”
– Do you believe this is the way?
“Yes, you have to be more attractive for the sponsors who want to get exposure throughout Europe. That’s what we’re working for every day, to change the language and the image of the ACB. We have very little exposure to our under-35 fans and we have to reach out to that audience. We’re working to reach that ground, their ground so that our interests will coincide with those of young people because they are not going to come to the basketball of their own accord. Basketball has to reach them. We are in the middle and this is why we’re trying to find imaginative solutions in order to achieve this. For example, we’re working with the universities so that we can make them participants in our sports. With scholarship programs, audiovisual material and other things…”