By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
When the Euroleague Commercial Assets Shareholders Executive Board meeting of the 26th of April was announced, after the initiative of seven of the strongest clubs in Europe who met in Athens, everyone expected fireworks.
It turns out that we got firecrackers, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
EuroLeague was born via a clash with FIBA back in 2000 and sometimes you need to have such a condition in order to have progress. But as it turned out, the issues raised on Monday were much more about governance and not a change in the general direction of the league. And what’s even odder, is that no financial issue was discussed either.
A lot of neutral observers also linked the meeting to the recent European League fiasco. That was something far-fetched from the get-go, considering the differences between football and basketball both on the fan base interest and also on the pretty modest revenues of the sport in Europe compared to the UEFA Champions League juggernaut. Plus the ESL equivalent already exists in the basketball ecosystem and it’s called the NBA.
So what remains? A number of clubs are still suffering due to COVID, fans are still absent from the stands, and players’ contracts, especially those signed before the pandemic, are not aligned to the current economic conditions, with the notable exception of the 20% discount for the canceled 2019-20 season which was negotiated between Euroleague and ELPA.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, Zalgiris Kaunas, and Panathinaikos are the clubs that have been hit hardest by the absence of fans. Their presence in the initiative of Athens is easy to explain. Olympiacos also makes sense to be there, since the team has been following a modest financial policy for the past decade and the real surprise was having three of the big spenders, Milan, CSKA, and Efes, present in the meeting.
Of course, everyone wants to save money, but not having Real Madrid, Barcelona, Baskonia, and Fenerbahce invited – contrary to what was said by some sources which insisted that all clubs were invited – despite the obvious financial issues, made a lot of people believe that the meeting was more about the future of the league and maybe a sign for a change of the Euroleague Basketball top brass, including CEO Jordi Bertomeu.
There’s a long list of clubs’ complaints about Euroleague not delivering the revenues that they have hoped for and it’s true that most clubs spend much more than they earn.
On the other hand, despite the pandemic, the clubs have received already all the revenues that were agreed upon in the formation of the joint venture between EuroLeague and IMG. The only lost revenues were the sports awards corresponding to the games that were not played after the cancellation of the 2019-20 season.
According to Eurohoops sources, the joint-venture lost over 30% in revenues after the cancellation of the season, but the hit to the clubs was only 14%. And during the 2020-21 season the clubs are receiving 100% of the amounts that were guaranteed back in 2016.
Still, no financial issues were really raised in Monday’s meeting, at least not in the tone that was expected after the Athens meeting. And no one expressed any desire for a change in leadership, not even Panathinaikos despite the long documented personal feud between owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos and Jordi Bertomeu.
All present parties practically agreed that they must be more involved in the decision-making process in hopes that this can change things for the better. They also agreed that continuing with a strong unity is crucial despite the different individual situations they may have in the short term.
However, so far all clubs were present in all the meetings, with no exceptions, and all decisions were taken in these meetings which included all the clubs. After all, the clubs are the Euroleague owners.
One must expect in the near future a more active presence of the clubs in the governance, more expanded boards and committees with the details of how this will be made a reality still being discussed.
And that’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, the clubs will be more directly involved in all the moves made in the competition and on the other, if they fail to get the desired results, they can’t blame anyone but themselves.