The Euro league has cancelled the season. This is a sad diagnosis for European basketball
What was decided?
Today, 11 Euroleague clubs with a ” a ” license voted to cancel the 2019/20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. They also decided that:
• in the 20/21 season, the same 18 clubs will play in the Euroleague as this season;
• eight places in the European Cup will be taken by the teams that made it to the quarterfinals this year (Monaco, Partizan, Promiteas, Bologna, Tofas, Venice, Unicaja and UNICS). The remaining 16 places will be allocated based on the results of the national Championships;
• the 20/21 season starts on October 1 in the Euroleague and September 30 in the European Cup.
The proposal to cancel the season came from Euroleague President Jordi Bertomeu. He argued that the League could not provide proper conditions for the resumption of the championship in any format.
At a press conference afterward, he also explained that the Euroleague did not consider moving games to August, as it would affect the next season.
“The players will need a month and a half to rest, and another month and a half to prepare for the new season. In this case, we would have to postpone the start to November, but there is no time for this, since we need to complete the season before the Olympics. I don’t know how to resolve the situation with the UEFA Champions League calendar, but it is already overloaded.”
Is it true that the season was canceled because the players refused to return?
A common misconception is that the Euroleague made a mistake when it compromised with the players ‘ Union: players received 80% of their salaries if the season ended, and only 85% if they had to finish playing. On the eve of the vote, representatives of the players ‘ Union opposed the resumption of matches.
Why did such a compromise take place at all?
Players ‘ contracts are for 10 months (from September to June). They played 6 and a half, from September to March – and received 70 percent of the salary. After that, the clubs reached an agreement: for the last three seasons, players are paid only a third in case of cancellation of the season, or half – in case of continuation.
Formally, we are talking about only 5% of the annual salary. But the vast majority of players could not refuse to commit if the clubs decided to resume the season:
• many of them have agreements that last for several years, and if they don’t, the club will break them up;
• even in the case of violations of the terms of a one-year contract, the player is blacklisted and a specific club and many potential applicants for it;
• the quality of European players is not so high that they can not think about reputational losses.
Bertomeu only said the following: “The main difficulty that the players had was not related to the financial issue. Some of them didn’t have the opportunity to train, some can’t get to their clubs, most didn’t think they could show the highest level of basketball without proper training.”
What will happen to the Euroleague next?
There is a small hope that this situation will teach European clubs to live within their means. At least, Jordi Bertomeu has been repeating for a month that “the League needs financial restrictions that are adapted to new realities.”
“We want to create a League where the clubs are self-sufficient,” he repeated again. – We will discuss this with the teams and players this week. We are constantly in dialogue with our shareholders. We need restrictions that would protect the clubs in the future.”
It is unclear what restrictions Bertomeu is talking about.
Those club leaders who have spoken at the moment supported Bertomeu’s position and noted the high level of confidence in the current President. Here, for example, is Andrey Vatutin: “We have been in close contact with the Euroleague for the past two months, and we appreciate the efforts that have been made to explore options for continuing the tournament… By saving this season, we would risk losing the next. We face much more serious challenges – market turbulence, economic crisis, and the likelihood of matches without spectators. We must think a lot about improving the TV image, about how not to lose our audience. It is better to yield in battle, but to win the war.”
But for now, the main target is Jordi Bertomeu himself. It is now criticized by many for the financial unattractiveness of the tournament (not enough solid TV contracts, weak penetration of the Chinese market, going into paid content without a wide audience coverage), which led to the cancellation of the competition…
Panathinaikos owner Dimitris yannakopoulos, as he usually does in such situations, has already declared that his club is again going to change the Euroleague to the Champions League.
In the coming years, coronavirus will test both the stability of European basketball and the stability of the Euroleague leadership.