Turkish Airlines EuroLeague stars descended upon Euroleague Basketball headquarters on Monday for their annual discussions with the organization's executives on how to grow the continent's premier club competition in ways that continue bringing more and more fans to the sport.
Players of 15 nationalities from all 18 clubs that will take part in the 2019-20 EuroLeague – two more than in the previous three seasons, when the competition broke ground by having all teams play each other – were on hand to open up the EB Institute Annual Workshops, a fortnight of brainstorming for the future among club professionals in the EuroLeague and 7DAYS EuroCup.
This marked the sixth such visit from players to the annual workshops, dating to 2014. But this gathering's new name – the EuroLeague ELPA Player Representatives Meeting – reflected the fact that the players had organized into their own association since this time last year, giving them a collective voice inside Euroleague Basketball headquarters for the first time.
"It's very important for us to have this conversation, not only because – as is obvious – you are our main stakeholders, but also because we consider you our partners," Jordi Bertomeu, President and CEO of Euroleague Basketball, told the players. "It's a unique opportunity for us to share information that you should know, and we believe that transparency on both sides is absolutely fundamental in order to build a strong relationship."
The players began their visit in another part of Barcelona, however, coming together for a One Team training session at FC Barcelona Lassa's practice facility to show their dedication to Euroleague Basketball's renowned corporate social responsibility program, which has helped tens of thousands of participants from marginalized groups through the work of EuroLeague and 7DAYS EuroCup clubs.
Euroleague Basketball executives then outlined for the players various aspects of the organization, including an ongoing joint venture with IMG and the factors feeding into growing economic results, of which the players are the primary beneficiaries. The briefing included Euroleague Basketball initiatives that directly affect the players, such as new new game rules, a new in-arena code of conduct, availability of the Euroleague Basketball medical officer through whom they can get second opinions on injuries, illnesses and recovery, as well as the intention to have a collective bargaining agreement between the players and the organization before the 2020-21 season.
"It's important that Euroleague Basketball informs us of the steps being taken and how we are all growing in the process of forming a spectacular league, one of the best-organized leagues in the world," Fernando San Emeterio of Valencia Basket said. "You learn that everything affects everyone, that cash flow begins by creating a brand and being part of this because, in the end, we all win – the league, clubs, coaches and players."
How the players talk to the fans through journalists was the subject of a media training session, complete with mock video interviews, conducted by Fiona Cotterill, director of AlFiMedia. The players were very engaged, talking about their experiences of being asked questions that they find difficult to answer well. They also play-acted interviews to learn tips on how to project their authenticity to the audience on the other side of the camera.
"This is a very interesting meeting, because you learn a lot of things, about the new rules next season, and about the financial perspectives of the EuroLeague, which was very important to me," Dimitris Agravanis of Olympiacos Piraeus said. "You are better prepared for everything, for instance in the interviews, to protect yourself and not to harm yourself, the club or the league."
For Kyle Hines of CSKA Moscow, one of several repeat attendees at the meeting, the accumulated knowledge being gained in the exchanges with Euroleague Basketball executives has proven indispensable in helping the players grow their basketball ambitions.