Euroleague Basketball returns fire in Fiba dispute

Euroleague Basketball has fired back at criticism of its scheduling for the 2017-18 season of top-tier club competition the EuroLeague in the latest development in its ongoing battle with the International Basketball Federation (Fiba).

Fiba last week hit out at Euroleague Commercial Assets (ECA) for failing to include windows for national team competitions in its club tournament calendar in November 2017 and February 2018. The 40 clubs that will participate in the 2017-18 EuroLeague and EuroCup gathered on Thursday with the shareholder domestic leagues of ECA to approve the 2017-18 season teams list, regulations and calendar.

Under the approved calendar, the 2017-18 EuroLeague and EuroCup will see the first games of the new season being played in mid-October. The EuroLeague will maintain its renewed format and calendar, with the start of the league earmarked for October 12. The season will run its 30-round regular season until April 6. The eight best teams of the season will the enter the best-of-five playoffs from April 17 to May 1, with the Final Four games being hosted in Belgrade on May 18-20.

Fiba pointed out that it was assured by the ECA in a letter signed on November 10 of last year that “ECA rules do not prevent or limit in any way the release of players to national teams’ competitions.” Fiba said that the ECA’s decision not to provide windows for national team competitions “clearly passes the responsibility for deciding whether or not to play for their national teams to the players themselves.”

In a statement released on Saturday, Euroleague Basketball said: “Euroleague Basketball and its clubs have always supported national team competitions, and will continue doing so, in the belief that they are an important part in the promotion of basketball for fans. Likewise, Euroleague Basketball has never prohibited nor limited any players from being released by their clubs to national team games and competitions, and will not do so in the future. The right of players in Euroleague Basketball competitions to accept call-ups from their national team remains.”

It added: “Such freedom of choice has been exercised by players on numerous occasions, without going any further with respect to the upcoming Fiba EuroBasket 2017. It is common knowledge that in the past numerous players both European and non-European have repeatedly decided not to accept invitations to join their national teams without any consequences, including high profile former players who are now attempting to pressure current players.”

Fiba also highlighted that the new Fiba calendar was approved unanimously by all national associations in 2014, with the exact dates of the national team windows published in August 2015, more than two years before their implementation. However, Fiba said the ECA then changed the EuroLeague format in July 2016.

In response to these claims, Euroleague Basketball said: “Euroleague Basketball did not modify the EuroLeague calendar. Traditionally, the EuroLeague has never stopped its calendar in November or at the end of February. The fact that Fiba has decided unilaterally to organise national team games coinciding directly with the clubs' calendar is Fiba’s responsibility alone. 

“Fiba’s decision to do so was contrary to the agreement that Euroleague Basketball clubs had in place with Fiba since 2004. As stated since 2010, Euroleague Basketball is in favour of re-introducing official national team games on home territory. In order for these games to count with the best players from each national team, provide the best possible product for fans, the best possible promotion opportunity for the national federations, and guarantee adequate rest for players every summer, Euroleague Basketball have presented multiple alternative calendar counter-proposals to Fiba with no response.”