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05/11/2015
David Hein's Eye on the Future
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Let's not demonise Basketball Champions League just yet

REGENSBURG (David Hein’s Eye on the Future) - Usually this column is saved for young players to watch out for in the future. But this week the focus will shift to the future of European basketball with the proposed changes to Euroleague to turn it into the Basketball Champions League.

The message at this early stage is to not demonise the entire concept just yet. 

Social media are full of comments about how a 16-team Champions League would be a disaster, cutting the field from the 24 teams in the current Euroleague Regular Season.

Complaints also arose about having only four spots in the 16-team field truly up for grabs - with eight clubs (at the moment, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Anadolu Efes, Fenerbahce, Maccabi Tel Aviv and CSKA Moscow) already in as well as the league champions from France, Germany, Italy and Lithuania.

In general, Twitter was full of people questioning the plan, which sees FIBA go into partnership with Europe’s top clubs to create the Basketball Champions League to start in the 2016-17 season. 

Let’s take a closer look at “Basketball’s New Horizon” - as it’s also being described as.

FIBA’s new Champions League would resolve many of the issues which have already surfaced or will be in the coming years - some of them created by FIBA’s actions themselves. 

Financial Fair Play was something Euroleague was just in the process of incorporating and this new competition will feature those same fair play principles. It will be a lot easier to make clubs adhere to them in this case because organisers can kick out those clubs who don’t, knowing that plenty of other teams would like to play in the Champions League.

The new FIBA calendar with national team windows was also a hotly-debated topic and the Champions League will include windows integrated into the schedule.

The limited number of teams in the competition could also make it easier for organisers to create new higher standards - such as minimum capacity and other criteria for arenas.

The Basketball Champions League will additionally mean more money going to the participating teams. Euroleague was reportedly paying out between 12 and 15 million euros among the 24 teams while FIBA promises 30 million euros among the 16 teams as well as a 2.5 percent annual increase. 

And the financial foundation of the league would also be more balanced - with 50 percent coming from European clubs and 50 percent from FIBA and investors. European basketball, as it stands right now, could face a huge hit if the Turkish economy were to take a major downturn with Turkish Airlines, Efes and Dogus all playing such a big role on the continent. 

Another thing to consider is that the Basketball Champions League will actually help European domestic leagues - and their players - better cope with international play. The Euroleague was playing their games on Thursday and Friday, meaning many Euroleague teams were then playing again on Saturday or Sunday for two games within 48 hours. The Champions League will only be playing on Thursday - save for a maximum of four weeks in which there are also games on Tuesday. 

A cut in teams also adds to exclusivity - and urgency and better attendance in the long run. More is not always better, and the current Euroleague format definitely created a fair share of “dead games”  - games that draw little attention from the home fans and between teams who were playing for nothing.

The Champions League plan has 32 other teams - including at least 23 national champions - playing a Qualification Round planned for the end of September for the final four spots in the Regular Season. Those who fail to advance move into the already-existing FIBA Europe Cup. That will increase the general level of the FIBA Europe Cup as many strong teams will then play in that competition.

The 16 Champions League teams will play in one group with the top eight reaching the best-of-three Play Offs and those four winners moving into the Final Four. 

The new format could actually lead to different teams reaching the Final Four. A best-of-three series is much easier for an underdog to win as opposed to Euroleague’s current best-of-five Quarter-Final Playoffs. 

Since the 2004-05 season, Montepasci Siena, Tau Ceramica, Partizan, Unicaja Malaga and Fenerbahce are the only teams to break the six-club dominance of Real Madrid, Olympiacos, CSKA Moscow, Panathinaikos, Barcelona and Maccabi Tel Aviv. 

Of course this is still just a proposal and many things could change. Euroleague, the clubs and the European federations all have been asked to offer input into the plan and there could be some modifications. Euroleague have asked for some more time to finish up its own version of a new project to present to FIBA in the coming weeks. 

The plan is to have the Champions League up and running for the 2016-17 season. So there will be plenty of talks and some changes are still to come. But regardless of what happens, change is not always bad and this new league actually promises some positives that should be considered.

David Hein

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.

David Hein

David Hein

Walk into the media tribune of any major basketball event and there's a good chance you will come across David Hein. Having covered dozens of FIBA events, including numerous women's and youth events, there are few players Dave doesn't know about, and few players who don't know him. His sporting curiosity means he is always looking to unearth something new and a little bit special. David Hein's Eye on the Future is a weekly column digging out the freshest basketball talent worldwide and assessing what the basketball landscape will look like a couple of years down the line.