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EuroLeague with 20 year-licenses, the Middle East, FIBA, NBA and London in danger

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By Aris Barkas/ barkas@eurohoops.net

BERLIN – Dejan Bodiroga has been the past EuroLeague MVP and Paulius Motiejunas was a longtime board member, representing Zalgiris.

However, on Friday they met with the selected journalists in their new roles for the first time and outlined the future of the competition, which at this point is unclear, but seems both ambitious and positive.

Motiejunas explained: “It’s about how we will unlock the league potential, we are working with possible investors and you know our plan about markets like Berlin, London, and Paris, where they are doing a great job”.  

However, despite all the numbers being up – including attendance at 18% – there’s work to be done and new territories to be conquered. Bodiroga elaborated: “There’s big potential in the Middle East, it’s true that we have an offer to go to Abu Dhabi for three Final Four, but we may soon have another option in the Middle East. And of course, there’s Dubai. Everyone in the League is positive about Dubai, however, we need to find the right timing for them”. 

What does this timing mean? With the IMG deal expiring in the summer of 2026, the next couple of years must be used to create a road map for the future, which can change a lot. Asked about extending the 10-year licenses, Motiejunas added that he would like to see them signed for 20 years, bringing even more stability to the league. Everything is on the table right now, including the naming rights of the league and results are expected in near future.

“Red flags” in London

For the moment this idea includes practically only the 13 clubs/shareholders, with CSKA Moscow still among them, and there’s no concrete roadmap for an expansion.

“Let’s talk in a year”, said Motiejunas about an exact road map, since the EuroLeague has a lot of things going on right now and that includes Paris in the league – “which is doing a great job, on a market where things are not easy for European basketball but being in the EuroLeague is like becoming a Formula 1 driver” – on a one season test-run, since Paris can only stay in the EuroLeague beyond the 2024-25 season only by making the playoffs, and the situation in London with the owners of the Lions, the 777 partners.

The American private investment company. had been under scrutiny recently and reportedly has many financial problems, something that the EuroLeague has noticed. “It’s bad, it’s obviously a red flag and we are not getting the answers we want”, explained Motiejunas implying that their EuroCup presence is in danger. “They have to convince us”. 

On top of that, the question of giving out new licenses, including Monaco, is tied up with having a big, preferably new arena, so it doesn’t seem likely until 2026 while even Barcelona will be pressured to move as soon as possible to a bigger arena than Palau Blaugrana.

FIBA and having “a better basketball product than the NBA”

Meanwhile, the talks are ongoing with FIBA, as the EuroLeague wants to establish a long-term solution with them, and as Bodiroga explains: “We are negotiating with FIBA, it’s great that this season the games of the national teams didn’t overlap with EuroLeague, but we need to find a better and permanent solution, because FIBA has set their calendar until 2027, they have competitions in September and our clubs always need to adjust”. 

To be exact, there’s no agreement about what will happen in the November 2024 window and the two sides are expected to meet again at the start of June.

As for the NBA, Motiejunas didn’t hesitate to say that in his opinion the EuroLeague has “a better basketball product than the NBA”, speaking about everything that’s happening on the court but off the court and on the business aspect “We need to catch up with them”. So at this moment, the NBA is an example: “We need to learn from them, we don’t see them either as competitors or as potential investors”.

“Emotional control”

Last but not least, Motiejunas and Bodiroga addressed the issue of Panathinaikos owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos being active again and expressing himself in ways that may be hurting the league.

“We had a meeting and he is a great guy”, said Motiejunas, “but of course, on some occasions, better emotional control is needed”.

“Dimitris and his family have given a lot to European basketball for decades, we respect that and we also need to protect the competition”, added Dejan Bodiroga, who in the past has been the main Panathinaikos star, leading the club to two EuroLeague titles.

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