Bertomeu available for FIBA talks but calendar ‘not a EuroLeague problem’
By Simon Ward
Jordi Bertomeu, the head of Euroleague Basketball, the organiser of the top European clubs competition, has insisted his organisation is “always” available for talks with FIBA, the sport’s world’s governing, to resolve a protracted dispute over the global calendar.
However, he indicated that the onus is on the international federation to come up with a solution that is beneficial for the sport.
The wrangle between the two bodies relates to the clashes of national team matches and EuroLeague games since the introduction of new international windows in the 2017-18 season, and the organisation of separate pan-European club competitions.
The issue of fixture congestion if set to intensify next season as the club-run EuroLeague expands from 16 to 18 teams with the addition of two more automatic qualifying members in Bayern Munich of Germany and France’s LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, which have both been granted two-year licences.
At the recent SportAccord Convention in Gold Coast, Australia, Andreas Zagklis, the new secretary general of FIBA, called for an end to the feud, claiming only a collaborative approach will maximise the sport’s commercial potential across the continent.
Bertomeu (pictured), the president, chairman and chief executive of Euroleague Basketball, has welcomed this overture, acknowledging that a solution should be found so that international players do not have to choose between their club and national team in the November and February windows.
Responding to a question from Sportcal at a media briefing at the EuroLeague Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain, Bertomeu said: “Honestly, we haven’t had any conversation with Andreas so far. So, in this particular aspect [the calendar] we don’t have any improvement. Talks, I am sure, we’ll have soon.”
Zagklis, who took office last year following the sudden death of Patrick Baumann, said FIBA’s main task is to “bring the balance we have achieved in the other four continents between clubs and leagues on to the European continent,” adding that it had “to transition from a war terminology to a collaborative terminology.”
Bertomeu responded by saying: “As soon as he [Zagklis] wants to talk with us, we will be there available and that has always been our behaviour and well always be our behaviour. I cannot agree more with him… the dialogue should be, I would say, more efficient.
“Clearly, from our point of view, FIBA should find a solution with the calendar, which is not a Euroleague problem. We believe that it’s a basketball problem that in our opinion will be good to be solved. I am saying it is not a Euroleague Basketball problem because if the French team cannot have their best eight or nine players it is not our fault. It is the calendar that is not allowing them to have the best players on the court.
“I believe that this is a point that should be fixed and solved. So, we are very open to talk, as always, and to find solutions also for our players to have more time for resting.”
The relationship between Euroleague Basketball and FIBA has also been strained by the latter’s introduction, in 2016-17, of the Basketball Champions League as a rival to the EuroLeague and its feeder EuroCup, which means that, taking into account the lower-tier FIBA Europe Cup, there are now four separate club competitions.
However, the EuroLeague still boasts most of the continent’s elite teams, with 11 of the 16 participants having long-term licences to take part in the tournament.
While describing Baumann’s death as “a tragedy,” Bertomeu acknowledged there is an opportunity for fresh discourse with FIBA, saying: “We are in a new time with the new management. I don’t know if it means they will have a different approach and a different vision… But as a matter of principle, we will be absolutely available as soon as they request to sit down and talk, and to fix the calendar issue.”
Meanwhile, the Euroleague Basketball chief has stressed that the top competition will not be “contaminated” by the present crisis in the Greek league.
Top Athens outfit Olympiacos is facing relegation from the country’s top-tier A1 if it carries out its threat not to take on local rivals Panathinaikos in the quarter-finals of the playoffs on Monday, as it would be their third forfeited match of the season, in an ongoing dispute over refereeing.
Both teams have long-term EuroLeague licences, but their status in the competition is not in doubt, according to Bertomeu who said: “We don’t want to be contaminated by what happens in other competitions that we cannot control, and we don’t want to have control."
He added: “It is becoming very difficult to understand so I will not even try to find solutions… I hope for the good of basketball these problems will be fixed for the better and in the best way possible… Both Greek teams have good reputations as clubs in Europe.”
The EuroLeague has a rule excluding teams that are relegated from their top division at home, but only on the basis of sporting results.
Bertomeu said: “It’s about a measure of competitiveness. This is the interpretation of the rule… I just want to be clear and very transparent. We are not going to apply this rule if something happens [to Olympiacos] in Greece this year. The principle is no contamination.”
It has been reported that, if relegated, Olympiacos intend to field their youth team in the second-tier A2, while the first team would play in the EuroLeague and possibly the Adriatic League, which presently comprises teams from the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
CSKA Moscow of Russia clinched their eighth EuroLeague title with a 91-83 win over Turkey's Anadolu Efes in this year's final at the Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria-Gasteiz on Sunday night.
The venue for next year's Final Four has yet to be decided, with the situation in Greece casting doubt over whether Athens, which was considered the favourite, will act as host, and the French capital Paris represents another attractive option.