A full-range discussion of the future between Turkish Airlines Euroleague players and Euroleague Basketball executives marked the opening of the Euroleague Basketball Institute's Annual Workshops on Tuesday afternoon in Barcelona. A new era of European basketball, in which all the best teams play each other regularly starting with the upcoming 2016-17 season, was the main topic as the players filled a conference table at Euroleague Basketball headquarters, heard in detail about the new competition structure and took the opportunity to have their questions answered.
Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO, led the meeting and briefed the players on major aspects of the transition to a new and bigger league that breaks ground in European team sports as the first to assure fans that all the best teams play each other at least two times every season going forward.
"We see our players in terms of partnership," Mr. Bertomeu said. "We need each other and that is the main reason why we are here today. I have to say that we need you to keep growing this project. We are here to explain, to share, to listen to you.
"We want to reach goals that, in the end, will benefit everyone involved. So this is why I say that in this specific framework, we are partners. We work together in the direction that will make the league more profitable, will increase our standards and at the end of the day reach more fans."
The players, who ranged from rookies to several veterans of 10 or more Euroleague seasons, were given an inside look at both the motives and the benefits expected from the round-robin league format, including an explanation of the role of IMG, the new joint venture partner of Euroleague Basketball, whose vast expertise in sports production will be another value-added feature of the 2016-17 season.
"For us to be involved with a leading company worldwide is an opportunity not to lose, an opportunity that is a true consequence of our growth and the efforts of our clubs in the last 15 years," Mr. Bertomeu said. "We have to feel proud."
Looking ahead to the new format, the players were given a first look at the criteria that is being applied to the preparation of next season's calendar.
"If you want to be at the top level, it means you want to play against the best, and that's truer than ever in this Euroleague with 16 teams," said Quino Colom of Unics Kazan, who will make his Euroleague debut next season.
Another important subject of the meeting was the primary role that the competition's stars have in engaging fans off the court in personal appearances and social media, as well as talking to the fans through the media in interviews and press conferences.
"As soon as we started to talk, it was really interesting. I'm 30 years old and I heard so many new things I never even thought about before," Mantas Kalnietis of EA7 Emporio Armani Milan said. "I'm not really a veteran, but I have played in Euroleague for 10 years, I see how it's changing every season and how much more we do outside the basketball court. It shows that Euroleague is going in the right direction and growing as an organization. It's good for basketball."
Additionally, the players heard from Ben Paterson, Head of Integrity Genius Sports, which partners with Euroleague Basketball to promote the integrity of its competitions by monitoring and analyzing betting trends and aberrations in order to prevent any hint of match-fixing. It marked the second education session of the partnership as Mr. Paterson explained to players how to avoid the influences that could compromise their integrity in the sport of basketball. Mr. Paterson had previously met with Euroleague referees and observers in September 2015.
"That's what we are here for and assisting Euroleague Basketball in, so that you can enjoy the proper environment to enjoy your careers and prosper in them," Mr. Paterson said.
The players had spent their first hours in Barcelona enjoying a One Team training session to familiarize themselves at ground level with Euroleague Basketball's ever-growing social responsibility program, which has now touched more than 10,000 people in at-risk groups across the continent. They finished their day in Barcelona with a group dinner as the Euroleague Basketball Institute Annual Workshops were set to continue on Wednesday and Thursday with the head coaches coming to town for their own meetings.