Follow the World Cup on Facebook
Patrick Baumann: Basketball’s future is built on national team passion
MIES - International basketball is taking center stage this week in Istanbul with the knockout round of FIBA EuroBasket 2017 underway.
Players put in stunning performances in Helsinki, Tel Aviv, Cluj-Napoca and Istanbul in the Group Phase and now 16 teams are trading blows in the city where East meets West, a place that has become an unofficial capital for basketball.
In less than three months, the national teams will return to the spotlight when the FIBA Basketball World Cup European Qualifiers are staged all over the old continent.
FIBA Secretary General and International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member Patrick Baumann, in a piece written for SportsPro Media, has highlighted some of the aspects of the new competition system that ensures November will be a seminal moment in basketball's history.
"National teams drive the evolution and growth of basketball and, as the world governing body with the responsibility for developing and promoting the sport worldwide, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) is committed to generating new talent as well as supporting and strengthening national team competitions," Baumann writes.
"WE HAVE INTRODUCED A NEW CALENDAR WHICH NOT ONLY ENSURES THAT NATIONAL TEAMS GET TO PLAY REGULAR HOME GAMES BUT LOOKS AFTER OUR MOST IMPORTANT ASSETS - THE PLAYERS. WE ARE COMMITTED TO A SCHEDULE DESIGNED TO HELP THEM." Baumann
There will be six windows for players to join national sides to play Qualifiers. This will provide opportunities for new stars to emerge. Crucially, FIBA wants to ensure a reduced workload for players. As there will be breaks for leagues in November and February, players will show up to play for their national teams already in shape and not requiring a long training camp.
"We have introduced a new calendar which not only ensures that national teams get to play regular home games but looks after our most important assets - the players - by reducing their workload by an average of 26 percent over a four-year competition cycle," Baumann said. "We are committed to a schedule designed to help them."
The first window for games will be in November, the second in 2018 in February and the third at the end of June and beginning of July.
Significantly for the new system, national team players will now get to compete at home in meaningful games and not just friendlies. Their families and friends will get to watch the play. The fans will be able to see their teams in action.
Baumann also addressed the issue of NBA players, who will be available to play in the third (June/July 2018) and fourth (September, 2018) windows but not for the opening two.
"Concerns have been expressed about the absence of NBA players during the November and February windows but these need to be put into context and approached in a constructive spirit," he says. "The rosters of the national teams at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 show that just 11 percent of players are playing in the NBA. That means that nearly 90 per cent of the current squads would be available for those two windows, and that all NBA players will be free for selection for the June and September qualifiers."
"THIS NEW CALENDAR IS A CRUCIAL STEP IN THE GROWTH OF BASKETBALL AS WE AIM TO BECOME THE MOST POPULAR SPORT IN EVERY CORNER OF THE WORLD. IT IS TIME TO ACCELERATE THE DEVELOPMENT OF BASKETBALL BY BRINGING NATIONAL TEAMS HOME." Baumann
The process of introducing the new competition actually began in March 2011 with an in-depth consultation process involving leagues, federations and other stakeholders. The exact dates of the national team windows were confirmed and published in August 2015, giving everybody involved plenty of time to adjust.
"Regrettably, a handful of European club officials that are part of Euroleague have publicly indicated they will not release players to the national teams in November and February as they need to compete in an extenuating and ever-growing (of their own choice) club season at European level," Baumann writes.
"Euroleague is an international European league involving clubs benefitting from their national leagues and being strongly linked to the governing body in each country, where existing state legislation and federation rules need to be respected.
"While we support Euroleague's ambitions and share the same desire to have one strong top-tier club competition in Europe, ultimately the position of these few clubs would be to the detriment of their own countries, whose chances of qualifying will be diminished. National teams will be weakened and individual players, who are proud to wear their country’s colors, will have that rare opportunity taken away from them."
Baumann appealed for unity for the sake of basketball.
"At FIBA, we see basketball through a wider lens and consider the long-term health of the sport around the world," he says. "This new calendar is a crucial step in the growth of basketball as we aim to become the most popular sport in every corner of the world. Any action taken in the commercial interests of a few and which weakens a large numbers of European domestic leagues and national teams is regrettable and does not have the sport at its heart.
"It is time to accelerate the development of basketball by bringing national teams home. We must work together to make the new calendar a success and FIBA's door is always open to those who want to enter into positive dialogue based on the best principles of sport and the long-term interests of global basketball."
Click here to read the full story on sportspromedia.com.