The Euroleague Basketball Institute Annual Workshops continued in Barcelona on Wednesday with Turkish Airlines Euroleague head coaches taking their place at the conference table to discuss where the competition is going and to contribute their ideas on how to make it better and better for the fans. The coaches followed on the heels of player representatives to join in the exchange of opinions and suggestions with Euroleague Basketball executives on subjects ranging from branding and communications to integrity in sports.
The top subject on the agenda was a look ahead to the new, ground-breaking Euroleague format for the upcoming 2016-17 season, when for the first time in the history of elite European team sport, all teams will play each other at least twice in a round-robin format, giving fans across the continent more access than ever to the best of European basketball.
"This year, we have a great opportunity before us. We are about to have what we call a new era in European basketball," Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO, said. "Everything can happen because of what you, the clubs and coaches and players, have done during the last 15 years. Now we are in a better position, and that is why we proposed and the clubs approved these changes."
Amid a lively discussion about the challenges of each club playing at least 30 Euroleague games for the first time, the coaches emphasized the importance of the fact that fans in all cities will have the unprecedented opportunity to see all the greatest teams and stars during every season.
"We are going to have what we always wanted to have, one great Euroleague," Zeljko Obradovic of Fenerbahce Istanbul said, "and now every one of us will adjust."
At the same time, the fairness of a competition in which all teams must measure themselves against all others in order to decide a champion was not lost on anyone at Tuesday's meeting.
"I believe that nobody in the past ever had a doubt on who deserves to be champion, because when you go through the Euroleague, even without a round-robin format like the new one, it is a long, long, long, long season," Andrea Trinchieri of Brose Bamberg said. "But now, after 30 games, with all the things that it takes to play 30 games at that level - then you have the playoffs and the Final Four - you are really going to have, well, the headline is there: the best of the best."
The coaches were given a comprehensive review of the motivations behind the new format and the opportunities it creates for reaching more fans and growing European basketball like never before. They were then briefed on the significance of IMG having recently become Euroleague Basketball's joint venture partner and bringing its vast expertise in sports media production and management to the competition starting next season.
"It's about trying to understand in which aspects we can keep this growth and the opportunity we will have with our partner, IMG, so that instead of just having stable growth, we can make it exponential," Mr. Bertomeu said. "We have always had steady growth: now it's time to jump to another level."
In line with the pending jump in production quality of Euroleague games was a presentation on the brand and communication priorities through which the coaches and players will be relied on to engage fans and share the experience of being protagonists in the continent's top competition.
"Definitely you can see the idea and the vision for the growth of basketball," Dimitris Itoudis of CSKA Moscow said. "I think that, like Mr. Bertomeu explained, IMG are looking further to grow with basketball and that's what is most important. More fans, more ticketing, more people getting involved and being interested in this amazing sport."
Finally, the coaches 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 third education session of the partnership as Mr. Paterson explained to coaches how to use their stature in the game to ensure integrity in the sport of basketball. Mr. Paterson had previously met with Euroleague players on Tuesday and with referees and observers before last season.
The head coaches are to continue their part of the EBI Annual Workshops in an day-long meeting on Thursday with the Euroleague Basketball Refereeing Department to decide together how best to enhance the action on the court so that fans always get to see the best that Euroleague teams have to offer.
The EBI Annual Workshops, which gathers professionals from all aspects of the competition to brainstorm for the future, will continue with marketing and media relations executives coming to Euroleague Basketball headquarters in Barcelona next week.