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French Federation President Siutat backs Basketball Champions League as only way to grow sport in Europe

PARIS (Basketball Champions League) - Jean-Pierre Siutat, the President of the French Basketball Federation (FFBB) and a member of FIBA's Central Board, has given his full backing to the Basketball Champions League.

Speaking to French newspaper L'Equipe, he outlined that the joint venture between FIBA and European leagues - set to launch in the 2016-17 season - has the right mindset, as it concerns itself with growing basketball across the continent.

"I'm defending a project which supports the right sporting values and aims at growing French basketball. We're not the bad guys. If Euroleague wish to live on their own, away from the rest and have a closed league, there's no problem. But we won't let them attempt a take-over bid of all European clubs.

"We want to build European basketball, not divide it. If we accept to follow Mr Bertomeu (President, Chairman and CEO of the Euroleague Basketball Company), what's going to happen? And if he chooses to change the rules of the game? The dimensions of the court? If he wants games to be played at the weekend? Will he allow freeing up players from his competitions so they can be selected for their national team in the middle of the season? Under FIBA's new competition system, you will have to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup and that will be the only way to get to the Olympics. Otherwise you're out of the picture for four years. So we cannot afford to be held hostage by Euroleague who won't accommodate for the new calendar. There is a logic to what FIBA is doing in the transition to this new era. And there's room for everybody."

For Siutat, the offer made by Euroleague this week to hand-pick clubs participating in Eurocup and offer guarantees for a number of seasons will hurt basketball.

"Today, Euroleague are proposing to clubs all over Europe a guarantee of three years in the Eurocup, regardless of their final standings in their leagues. So there no longer is a sporting criteria. How will clubs remain ambitious to perform well if there is no reward? Imagine if we had given those tickets to Paris (quarter-finalists in last year's Eurocup and currently 16th in France's Pro A), Limoges (played Euroleague, currently 10th in Pro A) and Nancy (played in Euroleague, currently 15th in Pro A) last year. What would we say today to the others? Signing up to such a system would weaken and even empty the value and merit of their championships. But in fact they are the cornerstones for the growth and development of our youths and, by extension, of our national teams. The Euroleague project is respectable but it doesn't care about that. It is solely driven and motivated by business and money. Youths, development and growth of young players aren't their problems. However our goal is to get things back on track and build a new ecosystem that is adapted for the future."