The announcement of the Euroleague Final Four coming to London next year was meeted with confused looks on the faces of the media at the pre-Final press conference.
A Spanish journalist in the Sinan Erdem Arena work room shook his head and said that the decision was the “wrong move by the Euroleague”.
The rumour going around was that the Zalgirio Arena in Kaunas was expected to be named as the 2013 venue but when the O2 Arena in London was named instead, the assembled media gathered looked away from their laptops and straight at Euroleague CEO Jordi Bertomeu.
Speaking to various journalists while there, the overall reaction in general was a positive one, with a few against it. But main concerns were costs, as England and in particular London is a very expensive city, would the O2 Arena, a 20,000 seat capacity arena sell-out a Euroleague event? And with the British Basketball League play-off final normally held around the same time as the Final Four weekend, would that effect matters?
“It’s a good venue choice in my opinion, I think though that the price of hotels and restuarant costs will be high which could put people off,” Os Davis of Ball In Europe admitted.
Davis continued: “It’s a great venue though, one of the biggest in Europe and the Euroleague have chosen a great time to host the Final Fours in London with the Olympics and everything. I really hope that Great Britain can make it an event to remember because they need basketball events like this, to boost the popularity of the sport there, if they turn out for it on the back of what could be a solid GB showing at the Olympics, then it will make people stand up and take notice that basketball isn’t a minority sport.”
French journalist Julien Debort from Reverse Magazine shares the same opinions as Davis does and isn’t thinking of the negatives at all.
“It’s just great to have a Final Four in a unique venue, meaning that it’s in a country where basketball isn’t recognised as a major sport,” he said.
Costs will be an issue, no doubt. England isn’t a cheap country and most fans might be put off with the cost of tickets, food, drink and gifts. Something that will affect the four teams that will contest next year’s Final Four. The O2 Arena should, in theory be a sell-out. It will give the opportunity for the teams contesting the games to be allocated tickets for larger numbers of fans and with 6,000 a regular figure for the British Basketball finals games, neutral numbers buying tickets is a possibility.
The BBL Play-off finals could be tricky, as its home is in Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena. But surely this could be a major promotion opportunity for the BBL to move to London and really get a marketing team involved to work with the Euroleague to stage the final at the O2 and get fans to notice the British Basketball League. To see that there is a league and that it is great to watch.
The one unfortunate negative about the BBL is the promotion it does overall. The BBL Trophy Final was held last year at the O2 during the NBA games and there were no people handing out flyers, and no coverage apart from delayed coverage on the country’s satelite television stations, but in the arena, zero promotion at all of it.
This could be the BBL’s time to right those wrongs.
All that aside though, and choosing London could not of come at a better time. The NBA staged two regular season games in March of last year, the Olympic Basketball tournament is amongst the hottest selling tickets available, so it’s only right that the Euroleague Final Four, the biggest European club basketball event with support and passion that the NBA can not touch should be staged at the O2.
But are the British basketball fraternity interested in trying something that is mainly out of their comfort zone? With the majority choosing the NBA and nothing else, London is tough to crack. Ask anyone on the street if they know the NBA? Chances are they will. Ask them if they have heard of the Euroleague and nine times out of ten they will say no.
“I’m sure some British fans will come to the Euroleague Final Four at the O2,” Greg Tanner, editor of the only British basketball magazine MVP said. “When London sees tens of thousands of fanactical basketball fans turning up, I’m sure it will spark some interest. Real basketball fans here will also get to see a level of ball never usually enjoyed on these shores.”
The reaction of basketball fans in the UK was, like the media in Istanbul a positive one. Former BBL referee Mark Ennis said it was ‘superb news’ while well known Great Britain Basketball MC Simon Hosannah voiced exactly the same opinion.
Some basketball fans though are thinking of going and if they do they will go for one thing.
“I’d go purely for the atmosphere. That would be the only real reason to watch for me,” said a basketball fan from Worthing.
“I’d maybe go, but it would be for the atmosphere,” said a Chichester University student.
While there is no doubt that the 2013 Final Four will be highly anticipated, prehaps more than ever as the Euroleague enters England for the first time since the days of the London Towers in 2001, personal opinion is that promotion will be key, as the Euroleague will be stepping foot in what you could say is “unknown territory”.
Basketball in the UK has changed since those days of 11 years ago, unfortunately for the worse, but it’s getting back into the swing of things slowly but surely.
The NBA set them up, the Olympics will knock the majority of pins down, no doubt. Can the Euroleague strike down the remaining few and win the British audience over?
Then there is the small matter of where to stage the Nike International Junior Tournament?