CALLS TO ABANDON FIBA WINDOWS

Euroleague chiefs have proposed switching all World Cup and European qualifiers to a six-week summer spell.

It is the latest salvo in its battle with the sport’s governing body FIBA with the top stars of the NBA and Euroleague set to be barred from playing for their national teams during new in-season qualification windows.

The wrangle over international windows remained the main debating point coming out of EuroBasket 2017 with the sport’s governing body coming under fire from coaches and players for its new calendar.

With the Euroleague also at war with FIBA, it has been presumed that many leading European clubs would follow the lead of the NBA and bolt the door shut to any participation.

However with the opening dates just two months away, the Euroleague has offered an olive branch of fresh discussions on a Plan B that would see all international games moved to July rather than held in November, February, June and September.

“The participation of the best players is crucial for fans, media and rights holders to fully embrace the project, as well as for national teams and national federations to maintain their traditional status as premium basketball competitions and to be able to have the fairest competition on the court amongst all participants,” they said in a statement.

“The calendar proposal principles have previously been presented to the clubs and has been also shared with all Turkish Airlines EuroLeague participating players through those present at the latest EuroLeague Team Captains Meeting, as well as with all coaches and referees of the competition.

“Euroleague Basketball is convinced that the opinion of key stakeholders is of utmost importance and needs to be taken into consideration for any definitive calendar that is discussed. The proposal reflects the long-standing position of Euroleague Basketball and its clubs that national teams are one of the cornerstones for the promotion and growth of basketball.”

The backlash against FIBA was led at EuroBasket by Italy’s Ettore Messina who, mirroring the thoughts of many, claimed the absence of top players will devalue national teams, especially when – like the USA – different rosters will be used for tournaments.

“There are not coaches and players in the rooms where decisions are taken,” the San Antonio Spurs assistant said. “I will support Italy watching the games on television. I would use harsher words on this but what do you want me to say? It is even more humiliating for these federations to be in the situation where they will ask a group of players that qualified and then they will tell them “thank you. Somebody else who is supposed to be better than you is going to be in the competition”.

“That’s a humiliation. For players is humiliation. You are playing for your country, you achieve a qualification and then 12 players better then you come in and play the main competition. It is a never-ending story. I am just curious to see what the next step will be. Of this brilliant brain contest, we are watching in the last two years. I am curious to see who is going to be the brain contest winner.”

Euroleague says their proposal – which might also free up NBA players – is based on the following principles:

1. National Federations need their National Team to have the best players available for all official games
2. National Federations need their National Team to play official qualification games on home soil
3. National Team calendar should occupy four weeks per season, in addition to a two week preparation period
4. Club calendar should occupy thirty eight weeks per season
5. Professional basketball players need at least four weeks of complete rest from official activity per season

No immediate response was forthcoming from FIBA, who have ramped up their battle with Euroleague by excluding their referees and other personnel from international competitions.

French break ranks, criticise FIBA

The growing unease of the negative impact of the radical alternations was reflected by French Federation president Jean-Pierre Siutat who believes fielding second-rate squads puts the “equality between national teams” at risk.

It was revealed, in a letter seen by Eurohoops, that the FFBB has written to FIBA and its European offshoot to call for the calendar changes to be suspended pending the outcome of the ongoing European Commission’s investigation into its alleged anti-competitive behaviour against leading clubs.

It claims that the potential unavailability of most of its main squad, including a large NBA and NCAA-based contingent, has cost it €2 million in broadcast fees “related to scheduling issues and the absence of major players.” In addition to a financial blow that will impact on the FFB’s ability to develop basketball, it added, “The FIBA specifications increase organisational expenses (and) the centralisation of the TV rights, among others, is a pure loss of direct income.”

Siutat, who also pleaded for Euroleague clubs to release players in November and February, added: “We think the situation is alarming.. and that France has been quite simply sacrificed.”

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