Normally in European basketball, relegation is a common fact. Depending on the league’s structure, the two or three teams finishing last move one division down and the same number of teams move up from the lower division. Well, this is not so true for specific leagues in Europe.
The French ProA League finished its regular season this week and the ranking shows Paris-Levallois and Clermont in the bottom two spots; theoretically, both teams are relegated. But today, the team from the French capital states that Paris-Levallois will stay in ProA. In fact, during the game played on between Paris and Chalon on October 27, 2007, the then-Chalon player Mo Koné played despite having himself (but not his team) received a message from the French league office that he was not allowed to play because of cannabis consumption. So the game should either be replayed or validated as a win in favor of Paris-Levallois.
The crucial point is now that if that happens, Paris-Levallois will have as many points as Chalon and Gravelines. But despite having a worse record head-to-head versus these two teams, Paris-Levallois vice president Solly Azar claims that LNB rules say that in cases where one team has lost a game due to juridical decision (as would be the case for Chalon), this team will be placed last in the direct matchup tiebreaker. Which would mean that Chalon moves down.
To make the whole story even more exciting, the second-place team in the ProB division, Rouen, does not have the infrastructure (i.e. an arena with only 1018 seats) to play in ProA. However, their president also says cleary: We will play in ProA next season.
What can the LNB do? First of all, they have to take a decision in the Paris-Levallois versus Chalon case. Both teams think they are right and will go to court if they have to move down. The “elegant” solution would be deny Rouen promotion to ProA due to poor infrastructure. However, LNB rules do not foresee minimum requirements in terms of arenas and Rouen is currently building a new stadium that will only be ready in 2012 after originally planned for 2009.
The final solution would be to increase the number of teams in ProA to 18, which would make all teams involved happy. However, the long-term plans of the league were to reduce the number of teams to 14 in order to increase the competition level. LNB président René le Goff says that there are no intentions to raise the number of teams to 18 and that playing a league with 17 teams (including Chalon, Paris-Levallois AND Rouen) is totally excluded: This is out of question. This would be ridiculous.
So what? We have seen so many strange things already happen in LNB leagues that even playing at 17 is possible. We will see how this story continues.
In Part 2, I’ll talk about the German League where wild cards and league spots for sale are common business.