FIBA Basketball Champions League expands, but have they used bullying tactics?

The Basketball Champions League accepted the late entries of Partizan Belgrade, AEK Athens and Stelmet Zielona Gora, increasing their club total to 40 and adding a new group to the four that they already had. Hapoel Jerusalem defied FIBA and the Israeli Basketball Federation and have remained in next season’s EuroCup, the very competition that the three defected sides have now left.

Sanctions and suspensions have been threatened against Jerusalem, who were nearly opting to leave the EuroCup and join the Champions League to avoid the threats made against them by the IBA [Israeli Basketball Federation] and FIBA.

But Jerusalem had a powerful friend in domestic giants and EuroLeague side Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv who threatened to pull out of the league if Jerusalem were suspended.

“Do you really think that Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv will not play in the BSL next season?” said BSL chairman Shmuel Frenkel to the Jerusalem Post.

“The IBA will have to give in because what they are asking for is unrealistic.”

But, as much as it pains to say this, it looks like that this could be the norm for a while.

It has been a battle that has been waged since the start of the year, unfortunately. None of us basketball fans want this. A pointless control of power between FIBA and Euroleague Basketball that all stems seemingly from the governing body [FIBA] not being happy at an independent company [Euroleague Basketball] having a basketball tournament with Europe’s elite that grows each season.

Worse still for FIBA, Euroleague Basketball not only has the elite league in club basketball but also the second tier competition as well, with FIBA having to settle with the FIBA Europe Cup; a third level competition that still boasts well established teams.

This season's EuroCup has seen a number of teams reluctantly withdraw their space and are joining the FIBA Basketball Champions League, almost against their will.
This season’s EuroCup has seen a number of teams reluctantly withdraw their space and are joining the FIBA Basketball Champions League, almost against their will.

The Basketball Champions League is an excellent initiative, and with time, it can grow into one of the elite leagues in the sport alongside the EuroLeague, but with basketball federations across Europe threatening domestic suspensions, banning players from joining the teams that will play in the EuroCup, basically telling them that the only competition that they are allowed to compete in is FIBA’s new league, which they feel should be the premier league of club basketball then it seems that FIBA are bullying their way to the top. And those clubs, unfortunately feel that they have no choice but to request to join up with FIBA’s demands, no matter how reluctant they are.

Despite Partizan, AEK Athens and Stelmet Zielona Gora putting in late entries, they were always going to be accepted.

So now, the revised format of this season’s Basketball Champions League is as follows.

  • Total participation: 40 teams divided into five groups of eight teams each.
  • The four Regular Season groups (A-D) that were produced at the Draw of July 21st will remain intact with regards to their final composition.
  • A new Group (E) of eight teams will be created.
  • Group E will include the new entries AEK Athens (GRE), Partizan KK (SRB), Zielona Gora (POL), and five teams from the Qualification Rounds that will now advance directly into the Regular Season: Besiktas Sompo Japan (TUR), Dinamo Sassari (ITA), MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg (GER), Proximus Spirou Charleroi (BEL) and Szolnoki Olaj (HUN).

So now, that the EuroCup has lost more teams to FIBA’s inaugural competition, has the governing body done this fairly or are they simply bullying their many federations into “banning” them or enforcing any kind of sanction to hinder that particular team’s chances, whatever it may be for next season?

Judging by how the teams that have announced what they will be doing in regards in continental competition this season, leaving the EuroCup has been reluctant for them. It seems that they are doing so against their will, knowing that they are being threatened with possible sanctions.

“As you know, our clubs ambitious are to play with the best European clubs and  our main goal is to return Partizan in Euroleague as soon as possible,” Partizan team president Nikola Pekovic wrote in an open letter to EuroLeague CEO Jordi Bertomeu.

“However, recent happenings which are still ongoing in European basketball did not passed Serbia, our basketball federation and our club. After series of meetings in a period behind us, BC Partizan NIS is in a situation where we have no other choice but to withdraw from 7 Days Eurocup.”

A decision that Partizan did not want to make but felt that they had to.

These types of decisions have not been taken lightly, but they all had no choice. They will compete in the FIBA Basketball Champions League and will play to the best that they can. But in their minds, the competition that they want to be in is the EuroCup and fight for a lucrative spot in the EuroLeague.

But it isn’t to be. The war that no basketball fan wants to happen has been stepped up, with no signs of a truce anytime soon.