'End war, let's collaborate', FIBA's Zagklis tells Euroleague
By Jonathan Rest at SportAccord in Gold Coast
Andreas Zagklis, secretary general of FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, has called for an end to the four-year feud with Euroleague Basketball, the organiser of the elite European clubs competition, claiming only a collaborative approach will maximise the sport’s commercial potential across the continent.
FIBA and Euroleague Basketball have been at odds over the global calendar ever since the international federation announced its plans to introduce new national team windows in November and February, in the midst of the European club season.
In addition, the two organisations are running rival club competitions, with the Basketball Champions League, which just competed its third season, and FIBA Europe Cup up against the EuroLeague and its feeder EuroCup. The top-tier EuroLeague involves only 16 teams, of which 11 have long-term agreements guaranteeing their place in the competition.
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.”
Speaking to media on the sidelines of the SportAccord Convention in Gold Coast, Zagklis said: “We have to transition from a war terminology to a collaborative terminology. I believe there is no other way forward for us and our clubs.
“Right now we have four European club competitions being operated and obviously we are not reaching, neither on the commercial nor sporting side, the potential European basketball has. We can do this only through collaboration.
“European Commercial Assets [which represents the interests of Euroleague Basketball] cannot do this alone, the national leagues cannot do this alone and the federations cannot do this alone. We put the Basketball Champions League together because the national leagues came to us and said ‘please help us in restoring our position in European basketball’.”
He added: “This the moment of truth for national leagues in Europe. Either they will become stronger and grow their position as we believe they should or they will become what the ECA want them to be, which is the third division of Europe.
“We hope that in the near future ECA can join us in finding this strong position of the national leagues in the European environment and make a joint effort in properly commercialising this. If we can have a rational discussion with the growth of the sport in mind, yes we can be successful.”
Despite Zagklis’ hopes, FIBA and Euroleague Basketball seem no nearer to reaching consensus.
Just last week, the leagues informed FIBA, according to Zagklis, that they were “unhappy about ECA announcing a calendar very different to what they had discussed with the leagues.”
Zagklis continued: “We are ready to play the role of the governor that listens to its stakeholders and then takes a decision for the good of everyone. We will continue playing home and away games for the national teams and qualifiers for our major events. We believe that playing frequently gives exposure to the national teams, which are the locomotive of our sport in the local markets and this can have a positive synergetic effect on the leagues.
“We need to find a solution so Euroleague doesn’t schedule its games on the same days as international fixtures.”
Asked whether FIBA could pursue legal action to enforce its position as the governor of the sport’s calendar, he was cautious, saying: “Even if you have the opportunity to sanction, you have to use it in a very careful manner. The fact that you may be holding the so-called red button in your hands doesn’t mean you have the liberty to press it whenever you like.”
The European Commission is yet to intervene in the dispute, despite a group of seven members of European Parliament last year asking whether it will take measures to prevent competition law violations and launch an investigation to help to resolve the impasse.