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May 25, 2013
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Press conference transcript: Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO
On the eve of the 2012-13 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Draw and a few hours before the Euroleague Commercial Assets Assembly of shareholders on Thursday in Barcelona, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu met with international media at a press conference to discuss issues looking forward to next season. Here is a transcript of the press conference.
Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO
"Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for coming.
"For us, next season is very important, as all of them are, so let's say that this one will be very special, too. We are going to change our game days from Wednesdays and Thursdays, as they have been for many years, to Thursdays and Fridays. We think that Friday is an excellent day for sports. We conducted research in many countries and had two test games on Fridays last season, and the reaction was excellent. Friday is a good day for families, because the kids can come to the games more because they have no school on Saturday. It will take time to adjust, as everything new does, but we believe that in a short period of time, Fridays will accepted as a day for basketball and Euroleague games. We will also have more games next season, played between the best teams, which is something that our clubs have been asking for in recent years as a consequence of growth in the Euroleague. We have understood, and that's why we are taking this step forward and why we increased the number of games among the best teams, so that we will have the best 16 games playing 14 games against each other. We are sure that this will help us to deliver an even better competition. And finally, we are going to have the Final Four in a great city, London, where we have never been before. Going to London is about helping basketball grow in that market. That's why we are thinking of having two Final Fours in a row there, something we never did before in the same city. This speaks to our commitment to the game of basketball by trying to incorporate a huge country into the list of Euroleague countries. We know that in the short term, we will probably not have a team in the U.K., but if we are there for two years, we expect that it will increase the knowledge of our game and increase the prospects for the future. These are all huge challenges for us and we expect that our fans will give us positive feedback about these innovations.
"These, for us, are good news in the middle of a busy week, because everything looks to the future by showing how we can improve. We had earlier this week the Basketball Rules Summit. Yesterday and today, we have our coaches and our referees technical commission together. Our marketing summit is going on now. Tonight we have our shareholders meeting. Of course tomorrow is the draw for the new season. And we'll have a ticketing workshop this weekend.
"I want to make special mention of the Basketball Rules Summit, a very profitable two-day meeting with people who represent the best of the best in basketball. We had a player of the status of Theo Papaloukas, coaches like Zeljko Obradovic, Ettore Messina and Aito Garcia Reneses. We had owners like Josean Querejeta of Caja Laboral, a general manager like Mihovil Nakic of Cibona, a league president like Radovan Lorbek of the Adriatic League, plus we had people representing marketing, media and TV. For the first time in the history of these meetings, referees and coaches were joined by a variety of people and it was a very good combination. Together, they worked on the principles of making our game more spectacular, cleaner and more fait. We want the game to flow better and both the talented players and the team game to be protected. We want our courts to show a clean game in which talented players can develop and show their skills to the fullest.
"The panel made different kinds of decisions. Some affect the interpretation of rules that are already written, but we have to change the criteria of the referees when making calls to achieve the right goals. For instance, the criteria involving contact on things like fast breaks that are stopped with fouls. In those cases and others, we will be more strict in interpreting the rules we have. On the other hand, we maybe were too strict on travelling violations, and we have to now give the player with the ball more of an advantage. We will also re-introduce our old criteria on the semi-circle under the basket to protect the offensive player.
"We also talked about the need for the referees to run the game faster. We want to stop wasting a lot of extra time unnecessarily during free throws, timeouts, inbound plays. All have to be faster to make the game more flowing and spectacular.
"Then we had some other decisions that do affect the rules as they are written, and for those we need a change of rules. I want to point out that the interpretations of rules that I spoke about depends only on us, and those will be applied immediately to the 2012-13 season. So we expect those to improve our games in the very next season. But when we talk about rule changes, FIBA World has a say, and we want to invite them to a dialogue to see if we can reach a consensus. We can't deny the problem we have about FIBA taking a long time when they change the rules. But we understand that they are working with basketball everywhere in the world, with all levels of facilities, players and so on, and so many differences to deal with. We have to understand that making changes is more difficult for FIBA. On the other hand, we cannot wait long. So we will talk now together with FIBA and I feel optimistic that we will come to an agreement. One of the rule changes we will ask for is to widen the court, to create more space for the players. Also a new rule for technical fouls, with one free throw plus possession instead of two shots. We want to reset the clock after offensive rebounds to 14 seconds instead of 24, to make the game faster. We, and everybody we talk to, want to remove the alternate possession rule in favor of jump balls, except in between quarters. We haven't found anybody who is a fan of alternate possessions in live game situations.
"We will try to shorten the intervals between quarters and also to introduce a 30-second timeout late in the game for coaches, probably in exchange for a full timeout earlier in the game. We are planning to make more use of instant replay at the end of the game and in more situations: on the 24-second shot clock, on questions of whether a shot was for 2 or 3 points, also when the ball goes out of bounds. These uses of instant replay would be always in the last 2 minutes. We don't want a game decided by a mistake. So in the last 2 minutes, the referees will be able to go to instant replay more if they have doubts. We can't allow that to happen the whole game, because it would be a contradiction with our goal of a faster game. We can't stop a game every single time a referee has a doubt. But in the last 2 minutes, when the game can be decided, there is drama, there is tension and the replay can become part of it. We will try to have the screens shown in the arenas so the fans can follow the decision, and so we think that instant replay will become part of the excitement and drama of the game.
"Those are the main things we discussed in the two-day rules meeting. On Wednesday, we had a five-hour meeting with our coaches, a very productive meeting, that did not spend a single second talking about on-court basketball things. We talked about marketing, communications and how they can help us to help you, the media. It is part of our role that we receive requests from the media to be able to do their job properly with our stars and personalities, the coaches and players. And we know that sometimes you find it hard to have those guys available, and we are not happy with that. No one involved in basketball can deny that it's part of the job of players and coaches to be available to the media. There is no question about that. We have to maybe break some tradition in order to open minds and change habits. If 10 years ago a media company had one newspaper, now that newspaper has website, video and so on. Media is more complex now, as you know better than anyone, but to have our personalities available to the media is a priority for us. We had an excellent meeting with the coaches and they understood that, as they have, frankly in recent years.
"Later today, at our assembly, we will finalize the chart of teams playing this season, including the wild cards given to Alba Berlin of Germany, to Unics Kazan of Russia and Bennet Cantu of Italy. We will talk about our calendar concerns with FIBA and with national teams playing at home. We agree on that, but disagree with them playing during the winter, which in our agreement with FIBA is a time that is booked for the clubs. This will never work. To respect their goals, we presented FIBA with an alternative in keeping with their principles, but there is no sense in interrupting the club competitions with national team games in winter. For sure, the NBA is not going to send players for that, as they have already said, and neither will we. We think it's a good idea FIBA has to play the world championships every four years, and also to have national teams play at home. So let's see how we can help them to organize that in the current calendar, without affecting our clubs competitions.
"The last point I wish to talk about is our financial fiar play rules in place for 2012-13. We have the rules, but we want to make a big step forward for more stable teams and a culture of transparence when talking about accounting. We know it's a complicated situation when we are working with 13 countries and their different laws. Som like Germany, France, Italy and Spain have the same ideas and more transparency. But other countries don't have them and we will be working with our clubs on fair play rules to have a more stable league in the future."
What is the situation on the FIBA Eurochallenge and could it be stopped?
J.Bertomeu: "We are in favor of not having more than two European competitions. Like the alternative possession rule, to us it just doesn't make sense. We made a counterproposal that we brought to our leagues and clubs in October, after which we wanted to start talks with FIBA Europe. Unfortunately, FIBA Europe as everyone knows has been through a complicated internal process since about February that led to a change of their top management, their general assembly, and similar. As a consequence of this internal situation in FIBA Europe it has not been possible to have any kind of discussion of serious situations, because no one has had the responsibility for them to talk about this. They always talked about cancelling the Eurochallenge to run the Eurocup themselves. That is not the question because the Eurocup is run well right now. The problem is Eurochallenge. We think the current situation with three competitions is nonsense. We said that if we can't go further on that now, we can at least cancel the qualifying round for Eurocup, which took place in late September or early October. The winners of that qualifying round went to Eurocup and the losers to Eurochallenge. FIBA Europe was very open about that and we agreed together to cancel that qualifying round. Club just can't wait until October to see where they are going to play. It affects their budget too much. Many of the teams that dropped to the Eurochallenge were in the east, and suddenly a lot of teams had very expensive trips to make. It was a very bad system. We managed with FIBA Europe to cancel this round, which is good news. So when FIBA Europe is in a more stable situation and ready, we are ready to sit at the table and continue our conversations."
If you wait for FIBA to approve rule changes, how long would be too long to wait?
"First of all, these changes come from the experts' opinion. We will present them today to the general assembly, and if they are approved, they will become the official position of Euroleague Basketball. We also don't want to pressure our owners if they don't have time to study them, so we're not sure these changes will be approved. But we will have another general assembly in October, and if necessary we can have the official approval then. I am confident that the recommendations will be approved because the experts in the room represented many different sensibilities about the game, and they agreed. Concerning those changes that require the rules to be reworded, we will present them to FIBA, and I don't want to speculate now about whether they will be accepted or rejected. But the truth is that we all believe we can't wait. We have examples before of rules introduced by the Euroleague - the semicircle, for example - becoming FIBA rules later. So that gives an example of what can happen. To answer your question, though, too long is more than two years. That's too long."
Some people even in Germany were surprised to see Alba Berlin get a Euroleague wildcard. Why?
"First, every team things that they deserve to have a wild card, obviously. All clubs believe they've done a great job and meet our requirements and everything. So that makes it a very difficult decision. In some cases involving countries where they already have the highest number of teams under our rules, like Spain, there is nothing to say. We couldn't give a wild card to Spain because we have many teams already from there. Other teams were disappointed for different reasons, but I think that people understand that on top of the individual interest of each club, we have to care about the global growth of the competitions. Today, it's clear that basketball has to move north. It's already strong in the south. For us, a stronger presence in Germany, France and the U.K. is critical if we want to have a bright future in front of us. If things stay as they are now, it will be fine. But to make a big jump will require incorporating those three markets into our competitions. Germany and France are already well organized, but need some improvement in order to have a better level of competition. Germany this year, in fact, had the second-highest basketball attendance, after Spain. France is also doing well. We have roots in both France and Germany, but nothing until the next Final Four in the U.K. Those are our priorities and the Alba Berlin wild card goes along with the promotion of the game in those markets."
How many games will be on Fridays and will it depend on the clubs?
"It will not depend on the clubs, for sure. How we previously decided Wednesdays and Thursdays will be the same criteria for Thursdays and Fridays. Nothing will change. The main priority is TV. Our competition and TV departments have to work next week with our TV partners to quickly define the game nights, especially in countries with more than one team and more than one broadcaster. That makes things more complicated. It's true that this is a new element, close to the weekend, when national leagues and broadcasters have commitments with each other, too. That's why we want to have our calendar done and sent to all the national leagues by next week, so they can prepare their own calendars knowing, just as a hypothetical example, that Barcelona and CSKA play in Moscow on a certain Friday in December. Based on that, the leagues can work on and organize their own calendars. For sure, in the first year, there will be some incompatibilities, but we're confident that all involved will make the best effort to solve them the easy way. For that reason, we want to give our calendar to the leagues as soon as possible."
Thursday, July 05, 2012
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