David Pick | Nr. 44

On April 14th, 2021 - three months exactly to date following my 33rd birthday, which has no significant relevance at all to our story, Lithuanian reporter Donatas Urbonas broke Twitter and started a hurricane that has shaken the Euroleague headquarters like never before.

Via @Urbodo: "Seven Euroleague clubs (Zalgiris, CSKA, Efes, Milano, Maccabi, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos) secretly met in Athens to discuss their concerns about some financial affairs managed by Jordi Bertomeu & the Euroleague, according to sources. Official moves are expected soon."

Moves are indeed in motion as growing voices from this secret meeting are calling to sack Mr. Bertomeu and strip him of his duties as Euroleague President and CEO (more on these titles to follow). According to multiple reports across the continent, over a half dozen Euroleague clubs are unsatisfied with the distribution of funds and revenues, or lack thereof, to the clubs by the Euroleague. So much that drastic measures have forced the aforementioned seven clubs to exclude the three Spanish A License participants - Barcelona, Real Madrid and Baskonia - and boycott them from the meeting due to their close ties with Bertomeu in fear of leaking confidential information.

Nonetheless, Fenerbahce's longtime Italian General Manager Maurizio Gherardini was also on the list of individuals those clubs felt couldn’t be trusted, according to participants in the meeting, leaving the Turkish power-club without representation.

Reports from Greece reveal that Maccabi Tel Aviv shareholder Mr. David Federman has been the most vocal and aggressive influencer regarding the current situation of the financial distribution of revenues, in an attempt to lead a commotion to rise against Bertomeu and ultimately lead to a change at the head of the realm. Panathinaikos and Olympiacos - though both took part in the meeting, did not initiate it. Rather followed in the footsteps of Federman and Co.

On July, 2020, the EuroLeague approved a rise in revenue distribution to the clubs of the broadcasting rights and marketing agreements from 54% to 79% in attempt to assist to recover the losses due to COVID. The remaining 21% is distributed according to the final standings, while teams positioned 15-18 aren't entitled to funds.

Bertomeu is in the toughest position he's experienced over the last two decades! 7 of the 11 A License clubs have publically risen against him. 3 of the 4 clubs in limbo are considered to be his close Spanish allies, especially Baskonia president Mr. Josean Querejeta. "Jordi has brought a lot of good to the Euroleague, but it's possible he's also done bad as well," per Greek media.

By the end of the meeting in Athens last month, an official letter was distributed and launched to the Euroleague headquarters in Barcelona calling to dismiss Bertomeu from his position as chief of operation of the organization, or at the very least, suspend and/or end his involvement effective May 10, 2021.

High-ranking officials of Olimpia Milano, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, CSKA Moscow, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Anadolu Efes, and Zalgiris Kaunas discussed the effect of the unprecedented limitations surrounding the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season on their financial state. The clubs raised many concerns regarding the season impacted by COVID-19 and its restrictions. One of the main issues and concerns was the damages and losses suffered due to lack of season ticket sales and marketing opportunities without receiving a financial blanket from the Euroleague.

Maccabi, although the floodgates to Nokia Arena have recently reopened in full capacity, permitting 11,000 spectators to be in attendance, is considered the club to have lost the most revenue due to the COVID attendance restrictions. But not only. Maccabi, and several other clubs have realized there's more profit to be made should they sell on-court banners and led-advertisements privately, as opposed to funneling these sales through the Euroleague for a percentage portion of the revenues.

A few weeks back all 11 club-shareholders attended a unified meeting in Barcelona with Bertomeu including the previously uninvited Spanish representatives of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Baskonia. Sources described the meeting as "quiet" and surprisingly didn't add any fuel to the already burning fire.

Euroleague club's officials in attendance in the secret meeting in Athens demand to revamp and change the structure and clarity of the financial distributions. According to many executives, the Euroleague shareholders and decisions makers are allegedly consisted of Bertomeu and five private companies based out of Luxemburg, that dictate and determine the decisions, bylaws, marketing etc - stripping the clubs of any access not only to partake in such decisions, but also preventing them from gaining access to such documents. And why are companies that aren’t involved in basketball making basketball decisions?!

It's important to note that some years ago, clubs signed off on this structure, but times have organically changed and the potential growth in revenue has dramatically increased - one of the positives influences Bertomeu had on the upscale of the Euroleague as a league and brand. "The main idea," said one club official, "was to make a statement to the Euroleague and Jordi specifically. We no longer want his private companies to control the monies or make decisions. Our concern is that there's a possibility that not everything is done behind the scenes correctly, or perhaps, and I'm being cautious, legally - allegedly of course. We want to create a filter through 11 A license clubs to approve the financial distributions, but there's a much larger fight behind the scenes and big changes to come in Euroleague." Could this mean the end of the Jordi Bertomeu era? "Sure. It's possible," said the source.

Many clubs and leagues around Europe have taken a dramatic financial hit due to COVID, but none I fear as hard as Germany and the BBL family. It's because of this, that the BBL had one lone representative in the EuroCup this season: Ratiopharm ULM. This would also be the moment to shout out Sports Director Thorsten Leibenath and head coach Jaka Lakovic.

If we rewind back to the 2017-18 season, the EuroCup had three BBL reps including ULM, ALBA Berlin and Bayern Munich (both later clubs are now Euroleaguers). The ensuing 2018-19 season included ULM, ALBA and Fraport Skyliners. The following season during the 2019-20 campaign we saw a drop to just two clubs: ULM and EWE Oldenburg. Finally, the last man standing, again, has been ULM.

Because of the instability of clubs across the continent (Maccabi Rishon LeZion also withdrew their participation), 13 clubs that participated in this season's EuroCup campaign engaged with Euroleague shareholders and board members to execute an official agreement that will bring more stability, continuity and excitement for the clubs, but also and equally important: the FANS.

The EuroCup is constructing a revised format that will eliminate not only the preliminary group stage of four brackets consisting of six teams; but also the Top-16 bracket, playoffs series, quarterfinals series, semifinals series and finals series. In short, everything you knew about the EuroCup format? DELETE. Out with the old and in with the new. Prepare yourselves for the EuroCup to adapt a similar model of the Euroleague with multiple one-game, elimination life-and-death games all the way to the crown.

The preliminary four groups of six teams in each, will be sliced in half, and the total number of teams reduced from 24 to 20. 16 clubs will be granted a three-year license, four clubs will receive a one-year wild card and/or must meet the domestic rankings-based participation requirements. The two finalists will advance automatically to the Euroleague the following season.

The competition format will be divided into two phases that aim at provid clubs with more guaranteed home games and maximize their revenue opportunities and the excitement of the fan experience – while introducing knock-out phases that will deliver increased thrills: Per official release:

  • Regular Season: two groups of 10 teams each in a round-robin format. First eight teams in each group to qualify for the next phase.
  • Knock-out elimination rounds: eighth finals, quarterfinals, semifinals and final, all played under a single-game format.
  • Champion and runner-up to qualify to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague as per current regulations.

So buckle up and prepare yourselves for an emotional, but thrilling ride from October 2021 through May 2022.

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