Euroleague Basketball has today (Thursday) opted to retain its calendar model for its top club competitions in a move that potentially puts it on a collision course with the International Basketball Federation (Fiba).
The two bodies have long been at loggerheads over their respective visions for club basketball in Europe, with Euroleague operating the top-tier EuroLeague and second-tier EuroCup, and Fiba launching its Champions League competition in 2016-17.
The latest dispute surrounds Fiba’s new competition system and calendar model, which has taken hold this year. Under the new system, qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup are due to begin in November in a bid to establish a clear path to the national team event in China. Fiba has envisioned that basketball will be centre stage during the six windows of the qualifiers that will take place over a 15-month period over the four regions of Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe.
The 40 clubs that will participate in the 2017-18 EuroLeague and EuroCup gathered today, together with the shareholder domestic leagues of Euroleague Commercial Assets (ECA), to review the latest developments in both competitions, discuss key issues for future growth, as well as to approve the 2017-18 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.
The EuroCup regular season will tip-off on October 11 and run until December 27. The top 16 qualified teams will compete in the six-round second phase starting on January 3 and finishing on February 7. Best-of-three quarter-finals will tip-off on March 6, semi-finals will start on March 20, and the finals will commence on April 10.
The scheduling is set to provide direct clashes with Fiba’s windows for national team games, with the matter having this week been the subject of debate in European political circles, with a question on the issue being submitted by members of the European Parliament’s Sports Intergroup to the European Commission.
The question presented to the European Commission was backed by the two co-presidents of the Sports Intergroup, Spain’s Santiago Fisas Ayxelà and Belgium’s Marc Tarabella, as well as by the secretary general, Greece’s Theodoros Zagorakis, and the Intergroup vice-presidents Bogdan Wenta (Poland) and Virginie Rozière (France).
In their joint question to the Commission, the signatories sought to defend the right of players to play for their national teams.
In a joint statement published yesterday (Wednesday) after the bureau meeting of the EP Sports Intergroup in Strasbourg, the signatories stated: “For us, the most important thing is to safeguard the fundamental right of players to play for their national teams. We do not want to intervene in the ongoing debate between Fiba and ECA. On the contrary, we wish to encourage dialogue between all parties so that in the end, European basketball will be stronger and more united.
“Players and their participation with their national teams should not be treated as a leverage by either party. The dispute between the different organisations shouldn’t affect, under any circumstances, the right of players to take part in competitions with their national teams. We look to the Commission to avoid this kind of situation from projecting a false image of sports competitions.”