French Basketball Federation president Jean-Pierre Siutat has given his full backing to FIBA’s Basketball Champions League, but it is not supported by its domestic league clubs as basketball in France could hit crisis point.

San Antonio Spurs guard and owner of French League side ASVEL, Tony Parker leads a strong wave of supporting French basketball to the Euroleague and the Eurocup, saying that it is the highest level of club basketball and that it should be a priority to give it a prosperous future.

This despite the newly-formatted Euroleague competition, which is due to commence in the 2017-18 season not having any teams from France involved.

“Following discussions with the French Basketball Federation and its president Jean-Pierre Siutat, our public, our partners and our players, we have decided to participate in the FIBA Europe Cup,” Parker said in a statement. “It was not in our plans to attend the third rated European competition, the project and the Euroleague level was always our ambition.

“In line with our initial goal we maintain our determination to participate in the Euroleague or the Eurocup, which are currently the highest levels of European basketball. This choice is thoughtful and if any sanctions are to be taken by the authorities, we are ready to take the consequences. The French basketball must necessarily participate in major European competitions and therefore its future is a priority for me.”

Marko Metlas / FIBA Europe
France legend and owner of ASVEL Tony Parker believes that the highest level of competition will be the Euroleague and Eurocup. Photo: Marko Metlas / FIBA Europe

But president Siutat paints a different picture and believes that FIBA’s new basketball league has logic and that it is more welcoming to clubs not just in France but around Europe.

“I’m defending a project which supports the right sporting values and aims at growing French basketball,” Siutat said. “We’re not the bad guys. If Euroleague wish to live on their own, away from the rest and have a closed league, there’s no problem. But we won’t let them attempt a take-over bid of all European clubs.

“We want to build European basketball, not divide it. If we accept to follow Mr Bertomeu (President, Chairman and CEO of the Euroleague Basketball Company), what’s going to happen? And if he chooses to change the rules of the game? The dimensions of the court? If he wants games to be played at the weekend? Will he allow freeing up players from his competitions so they can be selected for their national team in the middle of the season? Under FIBA’s new competition system, you will have to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup and that will be the only way to get to the Olympics. Otherwise you’re out of the picture for four years. So we cannot afford to be held hostage by Euroleague who won’t accommodate for the new calendar. There is a logic to what FIBA is doing in the transition to this new era. And there’s room for everybody.”

French Basketball Federation president Jean-Pierre Siutat is in favour of the FIBA Basketball Champions League. Photo: FIBA

So the opinion in France, for whom were amongst the first countries  is divided on both the Euroleague and FIBA’s respective leagues as the aforementioned basketball governing powerhouses look to flex their muscles in an attempt to gain any kind of leverage that they can.

And if this trend of divide moves towards other leagues – which is possible – then there will be no winners, instead there will be two losers.

Basketball and its fans.