Government strives to prevent Spanish basketball split
The CSD, Spain’s Higher Council of Sport, has urged the country’s elite basketball clubs to resume talks on switching to a 16-team domestic league, and avert a breakaway competition led by the Spanish teams that also play in Europe’s top-tier EuroLeague.
José Ramón Lete, the secretary of state for sport, yesterday met with representatives of the 13 teams in the 18-strong Liga Endesa that are not playing in the EuroLeague this season as he seeks to help broker a settlement between the divided parties.
A week earlier, Lete, who heads up the CSD, had met with officials from the five EuroLeague clubs - Real Madrid, Barcelona, Baskonia, Unicaja and Valencia – and, contrary to earlier indications, has now claimed they do want to reach accommodation with the other teams in the ACB, the body which organises the Spanish league, widely regarded as one of the best in Europe.
Late last month, it emerged that the representatives of four of the EuroLeague clubs, all bar Valencia, had met in Barcelona to discuss leaving the ACB to set up a new competition in 2018-19 that would replace or compete with the existing top flight.
Their bugbear was the failure in negotiations this summer to reach agreement on reducing the number of teams in the Liga Endesa to 16 teams in time for the 2019-20 season.
There are presently 18 teams in the top tier, which the big clubs argue is too many when they have separate commitments in the EuroLeague, which was expanded last year with the introduction of a round-robin regular season.
However, the government and the FEB, the Spanish basketball federation, are willing to partake in talks aimed at preventing a split.
It is reported that the 13 smaller clubs yesterday accepted the mediation role of the CSD in the dispute and made a “unanimous decision to stay in the ACB,” suggesting they will not form part of any breakaway.
In a statement, the CSD said: “At the meeting on Monday, the 13 clubs expressed their willingness to work towards a consensus that makes it possible to serve the legitimate interests of all the clubs in the top Spanish basketball competition.
“In addition, the meeting has served to highlight the need to resume talks between all clubs, with the purpose of establishing a competition with 16 teams, based on the principle of agreement that was reached last July.
“New meetings between the DEB and the ACB, with the mediation of the CSD, are foreseen to continue with the search for a consensus among all the ACB clubs and the Spanish Basketball Federation with the firm intention of reaching a stable agreement to the advantage of Spanish basketball.”
In the negotiations this summer it was proposed that the Liga Endesa be reduced to 16 teams by promoting only one team from and relegating two teams to the second-tier LEB Oro over the next two years and in return for compensation of €500,000 ($598,000) to the FEB.
However, the demand of the smaller clubs that this money be paid in full by the Spanish teams in the EuroLeague was rejected by the latter group.
The smaller clubs also wanted a long-term agreement securing the future of the Liga Endesa and a guarantee that games would continue to be played at the weekend.
The CSD has played down the differences between the two factions, saying that, at last week’s meeting, the EuroLeague teams “showed their disposition to reach a satisfactory agreement for the clubs that compete in the ACB.”
Jorge Garbajosa, the president of the FEB, has pledged he will do all he can to prevent a breakaway, saying in the wake of the Barcelona meeting: “I’m not going to get into whether they [the four teams] are doing good or bad. Obviously, as a federation, I cannot agree that four teams leave the ACB.”
Francisco Roca, the president of the league body, had previously announced that he would be stepping down in November, prior to the end of his four-year term next May, having failed to gain approval for proposals including reducing the Liga Endesa to 16 teams.
Roca is credited for helping to secure a rewarding media rights deal with Telefónica, the Spanish telecoms giant, which has benefited the clubs financially, but has been frustrated on various issues, including the readmission, in a legal ruling, of Real Betis, which took the league back up to 18 teams for the 2017-18 season starting later this month.