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Euroleague Basketball looks to future after cancelling 2019-20 season

FC Barcelona take on FC Bayern Munich in week 28 of the 2019-20 EuroLeague season (by Xavier Ballart/Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Euroleague Basketball has cancelled the 2019-20 seasons of its two club competitions, the EuroLeague and EuroCup, with president and chief executive Jordi Bertomeu stating the move represents the most difficult decision the organisation has had to make in its 20-year history.

Euroleague Basketball made the announcement yesterday (Monday) following a remote meeting of the Euroleague Commercial Assets Shareholders Executive Board, which gathered for the fourth time since the season was suspended on March 12 due to Covid-19.

Having explored every possible option, the Executive Board cited seven key reasons for the decision to cancel including the health and safety of athletes, fans, staff and stakeholders, and issues relating to sporting integrity due to the varied nature of the outbreak across its European markets.

The Executive Board has decided not to award titles for the 2019-20 EuroLeague and EuroCup seasons. The 2020-21 EuroLeague and EuroCup seasons will start on October 1 and September 30, respectively, as previously approved.

The 2020-21 EuroLeague season will contain the same 18 teams which contested this campaign. The 2020-21 EuroCup season will reserve guaranteed spots for the eight teams that qualified for the 2019-20 quarter-finals, namely: AS Monaco, Partizan NIS Belgrade, Promitheas Patras, Segafredo Virtus Bologna, Tofas Bursa, Umana Reyer Venezia, Unicaja Malaga and UNICS Kazan. The remaining 16 spots will be awarded to teams qualifying through their domestic leagues’ final standings.

Speaking during a press conference, Bertomeu said that while Euroleague is still working on determining the financial impact of cancelling the season, he admitted it will be “significant”. He stated: “Of course, in our conversation with our partners, we have to include and we have to consider that the current season was not normal, so we cannot expect them to commit to what was signed and expected at the beginning of the season.

“Part of our relationship with our partners is to see how we can help each other, as we are in trouble, they are in trouble. That is the real meaning of partnership – trying to help each other and keep building something that we started with many of our partners years ago.

“We will have different conversations with our media partners and our corporate partners and we will try to see how we can compensate them, but at the same time trying to keep part of the fee in order to guarantee what our clubs are expecting to receive. But also our clubs understand this season will be a different one regarding the incomes they will receive from the league. I think everybody is aware that this is a difficult season.”

Bertomeu also believes the current crisis will serve as an opportunity to drive reform for the future look of the organisation. He added: “You mention the fact that this current crisis situation or problems can help us or can convince us we have to speed up our process for the future. Definitely this is one of the things we have learned from this crisis.

“We believe that it is clear that the gap between our clubs and the domestic leagues is bigger and bigger and at a certain point it is really is difficult to combine both. We are seeing this on a daily basis.

“I think that not only because we now believe that it is time to proceed with our project, it is because if we see the environment of this product, it is absolutely necessary to present something new.”

Bertomeu said IMG has been included in talks over Euroleague’s decision, adding the agency is fully on board with the verdict. IMG is a key partner of Euroleague Basketball, with the two entities currently engaged in a 10-season joint venture, running from 2016-17 to 2025-26, with the option of being extended for a further 10 seasons until 2035-36.

Bertomeu said: “As you can imagine we are in permanent contact with IMG, as together we are running the most important piece of the competition. So in these conversations, we shared the same concerns and ideas and we are trying to overcome all these problems together.

“As a consequence of this conversation we will have another one for the next season, and there is no doubt the commitment for both sides to work together has never been under question. So the only thing we will have to do is adjust our projections to what we believe is realistic, after the right assessment of the impact, when we have data that will allow us to do so. But there are no doubts in terms of commitment on the IMG side regarding the EuroLeague project.”

Bertomeu also touched on reports regarding the future of EuroLeague’s title sponsorship deal with Turkish Airlines. He added: “I do not expect any change in our naming rights. We have been enjoying a very fruitful relationship with Turkish Airlines in the last 10 years. We don’t see, we don’t feel anything that will change our view on that for the future.

“I know that conversations about Gazprom have been published in some media outlets. Honestly, I never had such conversations, so I don’t know where the source comes from. We are extremely happy with Turkish Airlines.”