A first-time gathering of Turkish Airlines Euroleague team captains on Tuesday tipped off two weeks' worth of meetings and discussions to mark the third edition of the Euroleague Basketball Institute Annual Workshops in Barcelona.
A total of 24 team captains from 14 different countries were welcomed at Euroleague Basketball headquarters to hear and give their opinions about issues affecting all players now and into the future.
As an introduction, Jordi Bertomeu, the President and CEO of Euroleague Basketball, reviewed the corporate structure of the organization and outlined a formula of better games, a better calendar and better arenas that would add up to a better competition for all stakeholders, of whom the players are a major component.
"Our vision is that it's time to move forward and jump to another level if we want to keep growing as a league, as we did in the last 14 years," Bertomeu told the players. "We think that this is the moment to define that ultimate vision, and that's why we need opinions from players, coaches as well as other stakeholders."
Bertomeu also highlighted for the players the key decision-making criteria at work in Euroleague Basketball, the need to connect with fans and generate new ones.
"Every decision taken by the league has to first answer one question: Will this decision lead to more fans?" he said. "If the answer is no, we cannot go with it. If it's yes, we are not always correct, but we have to try. What's best for fans and new fans is the main criteria."
The team captains were presented with data showing that the audience for the Turkish Airlines Euroleague is growing at a strong annual rate in terms of both in-arena attendance and fan attention from traditional and social media, putting the players in a bigger spotlight than ever before. With that in mind, the participants' role as models in their communities and spokespersons for the competition was addressed by Alex Ferrer Kristjansson, Director of Communications and Branding for Euroleague Basketball.
"We need to do different things to capture the attention of more fans," he said. "We need to stand out. And you are key in the transmission of values as role models in the digital age."
The players appreciated the opportunity to be included as stakeholders in the discussion of the present status and future plans of the competition.
"I think it's great for the players to know where they play, to see this from the inside, to know how things work and what are the objectives," Pau Ribas of Valencia Basket Club said. "In the end, to have the strongest competition, the players have to understand these things. That makes this a good initiative to involve the players, who maybe are forgotten sometimes on subjects like this."
The team captains were the first in a series of EBI Annual Workshops set to include head coaches, media directors, ticketing managers and marketing executives, among others, in the run-up to the 2014-15 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Draws on Thursday, July 10.
"It's great to be a part of it, to get some information and know what happens on the inside, to hear the president's ideas and what he's trying to accomplish," Marcus Slaughter of Real Madrid said. "That's pretty big for players to see that and understand the concept of why things are done. It shows that this organization is open. They have open minds and are ready for suggestions from the players. They know that we're the product, so they want what's best for us."
One important aspect of the meeting, Demond Greene of FC Bayern Munich said, was being able to share the experience side-by-side with players from other countries.
"You're out there on the court competing against each other in the biggest league in Europe, the Euroleague. Then we’re coming here to find out what's going well and also some situations what we can do better," he said. "It was a great opportunity to give the players the chance to talk and sit at the same table with the president, to share information and thoughts with other players from other cities, different cultures. We're all basically sitting here trying to end up with the same opinion, to find the same way and the same path. It's very, very interesting."
The team captains plan to take what they learned from the meetings back to their teams to help educate other players.
"We are the bridge between Euroleague and the teams," Dogus Balbay of Anadolu Efes Istanbul said. "We are in the middle. We can communicate with our teammates and coaches. It's great having your teammates on your side and also knowing that Euroleague staff is supporting you and they listen if you have any concerns or questions."