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8 Marine Johannes | Photo: Anne Perrinet
05/06/2018
Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide
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Can the French domestic league become the best in Europe?

NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen’s Women’s Basketball Worldwide) – Having recently celebrated its 20th Birthday, the next task for the LFB is surely to become the best domestic league in Europe.

Of course, there is the significant barrier of salaries always dictating where the very elite players will go and in that respect, Russia and Turkey still have a considerable edge. But if you believe that both the rouble and lira could be more volatile moving forward, it is not beyond imagination to see the French League gathering even more momentum.

I have always categorized it with Hungary, Poland and Spain. But now, I think it is by itself on the third podium step and probably the most improved domestic league on the Continent.

So, admittedly as an outsider looking in, what are the upsides that sees it soaring to new heights in my own eyes? Well, there are plenty.

- Besides a handful of players such as Sandrine Gruda, Olivia Epoupa and Valeriane Ayayi, pretty much all the France national team will be competing in their home league next season. We have just seen the return of Endene Miyem and Helena Ciak for example, which is a great boost.

- The working environment for players and stability of clubs appears to be very high and solid compared to all other leagues.

- Basketball is the leading women’s sport in France and that alone is an open door for the LFB to march through and enjoy.

- The LFB is connected nicely to young French players and the CFBB who identify young U15 players and help most to secure first pro-contracts. The work of the FFBB is also vital of course in this pathway.

- The stability of France at the top of the FIBA rankings is also mutually beneficial for the LFB and the Federation in terms of growing participation and commercial interest.

- In terms of overall competitiveness, the LFB is moving towards excellence. It is not about 1 club any more. It could be the most exciting title race ever next season, with several clubs able to make a challenge.

- The entry of Tony Parker at Lyon has sealed them as a new high level and ambitious powerhouse to further fuel this Championship race. This complements the already established BLMA, Bourges and Carolo Basket.

- The increase of the LFB live streaming activity is a great bonus for fans and for increased visibility.

Like any league or sporting organisation, the LFB should have a powerful appetite to embrace feedback in pursuit of more powerful and positive steps forward. Not just from French fans, but wider audiences. With this in mind, I would like to think they can consider some further improvements.

- The  season always feels a little bit too long in terms of the calendar and this maybe does impact on the willingness of WNBA players to commit for example. Perhaps the schedule could be reviewed and harmonized.

- How can the LFB work with the Federation to combat more French players moving to the NCAA and creating a potentially widening ‘black hole’ of exciting young talent from the pro-French game?

- Can the LFB make the cultural step of running concurrent social channels in English? Yes, we know French is one of the world’s leading languages [and a great one at that] – but I do think it would be worth the modest investment to capture new fans.

- Finally, the main hurdle as I mentioned earlier, remains the fact that Asia, Russia and Turkey have a near monopoly on the very elite level talent in the global game. Only salaries are ever likely to change this, so maybe this is something that is simply insurmountable.

In summary, I have never been more excited about the LFB and I hope to catch more games and follow it even more closely in 2018-19.

I would also like to finish by expressing congratulations to those involved in the most recent improvements, as well as the Federation, since a domestic league is never likely to flourish without strong national team programmes alongside it.

Paul Nilsen

FIBA

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

As a women's basketball specialist for FIBA and FIBA Europe, Paul Nilsen eats, sleeps and breathes women’s hoops and is incredibly passionate about promoting the women’s game - especially at youth level. In Women’s Basketball Worldwide, Paul scours the globe for the very latest from his beloved women’s basketball family.