The Euroleague Basketball Board met at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona on Thursday to discuss near- and long-term improvements being considered for the future growth of the competition. The Board expressed general support for a proposed change in the Euroleague competition structure for the 2008-09 season that will mean fewer games in the regular season and more in the playoffs. It was also in agreement to move up one of the recent rule changes as approved internationally by FIBA in time to be implemented for the start of next season. Both changes require approval by the Euroleague Basketball General Assembly, which meets next on July 7 in Berlin, Germany, a day before the 2008-09 Euroleague Draw in the same city. The proposed changes were part of a larger discussion of improvements being considered that would enhance infrastructure development, sporting quality and services offered to partners by way of strategic plan with concrete decisions that should be implemented by the 2011-2012 season. The objectives of this would be to enhance competitiveness within the Euroleague, to promote greater clarity for the national leagues and to increase the requirements to participate in the competition, for example having arenas with a 10,000-spectator capacity for all those teams with long-term contracts.
"Our goal is to keep improving the competition for now and for the future," Euroleague Basketball CEO Jordi Bertomeu explained after the meeting. "And when we say improvement, we are not only talking about our game as its played on the court, but on all levels, so that off the court we are just as strong."
The competition change that will be put before the General Assembly next month rearranges the Euroleague regular season group structure and shortens the phase. The new structure would comprise four groups of six teams each instead of the previous three groups of eight. With each team playing the others in its group twice, the regular season would therefore last 10 games instead of the current 14. One side effect of rearranging regular season groups will be to limit potential conflicts of teams from the same countries in the annual regular season draw. The second change proposed allows for more games later in the season, during the Quarterfinal Playoffs. That phase would now now feature best-of-five series instead of the best-of-three series being played the last four seasons. Both the Top 16 and Final Four phases will remain as they have been, without changes.
"We want to try to put more drama into the first phase, which seemed a little be too relaxed and had too many games that our teams had to combine with their domestic competitions," Bertomeu explained. "To compensate this, we did something as elemental as putting more games in a more interesting phase, in this case the playoffs, where all the best teams are trying to get to the Final Four."
Among several rule changes recently approved by FIBA World for application globally in upcoming years, the Board supported implementing one specifically - a semi-circle inside which no offensive fouls can be whistled - in time for next season.
"We all agree that the rule changes are good for the game itself, so it is tough for us to understand that we have to wait for four years to implement them," Bertomeu said. The semi-circle rule "was already used in our competitions previously, but had to be removed due to our agreement with FIBA. Now, it would be implemented again for next season and some domestic leagues might bring it back, too."