FIBA Europe makes stand against Euroleague with declaration
The national associations that make up FIBA Europe, the regional arm of the international basketball federation, presented a united front against Euroleague Basketball, the organiser of the continent’s top clubs competition, at the weekend as they adopted a declaration emphasising the importance of national teams and championships in the sport.
FIBA and Euroleague Basketball have been at odds over various issues, most notably new windows for international games introduced in November and February that clash with top-tier EuroLeague fixtures and mean top players cannot take part in both.
Three alternative calendar plans put forward by Euroleague Basketball in March were dismissed by FIBA as they would have restricted national team games to June, September or split between both months.
On Saturday, the 46 European federations represented at the general assembly of FIBA Europe in Nicosia, Cyprus supported the stern 10-point declaration endorsing the value of national team and national championship basketball.
This included condemnation of Euroleague Commercial Assets for scheduling EuroLeague games at the same time as FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifiers, claiming this had the effect of “placing the players in an unfair situation and ethical dilemma.”
They also hit out at EuroLeague clubs that had not released players for their national teams, and discarded as “unacceptable” the calendar “proposal” presented in March.
There was again endorsement for the FIBA-backed Basketball Champions League, the European clubs competition for which teams qualify via their domestic league positions, over the EuroLeague, in which 11 of the 16 participants have long-term licenses.
The national federations said they “confirm their readiness to use all available remedies in protecting their national teams, the national championships and the integrity of their respective competitions.”
The FIBA Europe statement also took encouragement from statements made by European sports ministers at last week’s meeting of the Council of the European Union, which it took to support its cause, and has urged “the European governments and the competent bodies of the European Union to hold ECA accountable for its actions against national teams and the European model of sport, which have a negative impact on sport throughout Europe, and in particular other team sports.”
Speaking at the recent EuroLeague Final Four in Belgrade, Jordi Bertomeu, the chairman and chief executive of Euroleague Basketball, said he expected further fixture clashes in 2018-19, but was willing to listen to any proposed solutions from FIBA.
He told reporters: "I don’t know what they have in mind. We are prepared to study any proposal that they can send to us... After presenting five different alternatives, and all of them being rejected, probably it’s time for them, if they believe there is something we can do together. We are totally available to help them and open to any type of conversation that allows everybody to present the best competition with the best players on the court to our fans.”
In other developments in Nicosia, FIBA Europe president Turgay Demirel presented details of the financial contribution to European national federations in the last four years, which is equal to the overall contribution for the previous 12 years.
Meanwhile, FIBA executive director Europe Kamil Novak announced the approval of a €1-million ($1.16-million) fund for a special Women’s Basketball Promotional Campaign that will run for two years and be aimed at federations to help attract girls to the sport at a young age.