The Euroleague competition system for next season is still unknown officially. Multiple discussions have been held during recent weeks but no decision has been taken. Several opinions are still around and the news comes for the moment essentially from leagues, clubs or other groups, while the Euroleague has fallen into apathy since the Final Four in Berlin.
While the playoffs have started all around Europe, it would be good to know how to qualify for the next Euroleague season so that the teams may plan. But nothing has been officially declared thus far, resulting in the speculation, rumors and lobbying going on. In-the-game.org published an excellent review on the positions of both the ACB and the ESAKE on the subject a week ago.
Without going into too much detail, the general position is in opposition to the currently proposed model. Pamesa Valencia even goes so far as to threaten to stop playing in the ACB if the proposed system is adopted. In fact, Spain would have four teams that are automatically qualified: Real Madrid, TAU Ceramica, Barcelona and Unicaja. If Pamesa really wants to earn a Euroleague spot, only the national title would open the door, for if any of the four automatically-qualified teams earns the supreme domestic crown, the Spanish spot would fall to the “next best league.”
BallinEurope.com recently spoke with ALBA Berlin’s GM Marco Baldi about the current situation and what does the team with the highest attendance average of the Euroleague thinks about the competition system.
Baldi told us that he “thinks that stability in the Euroleague competition is a good thing. The teams should know who they will be facing so that they can prepare the upcoming competitions. With the old system, there were already three-year licenses, now nothing has changed dramatically since the duration of these licenses has been extended only. We really should move into this direction, establishing criteria both sportive and administrative in order to see who qualifies for the Euroleague.”
Baldi’s points are understandable from his position: It is important to have a certain stability, especially for smaller teams in the European competition, in order to sign better players over a longer period. The players are seeking Euroleague spots, as they want to play at the highest level and only guaranteeing a Euroleague spot over several years would give teams like ALBA the opportunity to keep their star players in Berlin.
However, despite the good sportive results in 2008/2009 and an excellent administrative environment, ALBA Berlin does not qualify for an A-License in the proposed Euroleague competition model. Baldi was pretty clear on the reason why this did not happen: “ALBA Berlin, despite having probably the biggest economic potential in the Euroleague with the O2 World arena and the German market of more than 80 million people, did not get the A-License because of the TV coverage.”
For the moment, Euroleague games are only broadcast on Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) in Germany, and only with the financial support of ALBA Recycling GmbH were ALBA Berlin’s Top 16 games broadcast on Eurosport Germany, a free TV channel. But it is not all about TV coverage. “We also need the sportive results in order to be a serious contender for A-Licenses,” added Baldi, as his team played in the Euroleague for the first time since 2003/2004.
When asked about the situation in Spain in which Pamesa was threatening to take their team out of the ACB, Baldi replied that he “understands that the Spanish teams are angry, as this new competition system would not give them any real chance to qualify for the Euroleague in upcoming years. But a Euroleague without Real Madrid or FC Barcelona would not be as attractive. I guess that TV contracts without the two big teams from Spain would drop dramatically and would mean less revenue for the Euroleague.”
Of course, this point is crucial for the Euroleague in these days when the financial crisis is hitting Europe. And rumors say that the financial standing of the Euroleague organization itself is suffering from the slowdown of the economy. For example, several additional part-time journalists were not recruited to cover the Euroleague Final Four, as in years past.
A final take we wanted from Baldi what his view on the highly controversial third spot in the Euroleague for France. (In fact, Jordi Bertomeu has announced that ASVEL Villeurbanne will get a wildcard to play the Euroleague qualification phase in 2009/2010.)
“I am surprised that France will get three tickets. France is not known for fulfilling the Euroleague criteria at its best, so I don’t really get why they got that ticket. You need to ask the Euroleague — I cannot comment on that. If Tony Parker played a role in this, I don’t know. I want to add, however, that ASVEL did a great job and that they have the necessary quality people in their organization and that we like what they do.”