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Full Version: Interview with Rene Le Goff, President of LNB
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Quote:The LNB ( Ligue Nationale de Basket-Ball ) turns 22 this June. With the Pro A about to start semi-finals, it's a good time to discuss about professional basketball in France with LNB President Rene Le Goff, who presides over the organization since 2003, when he replaced Alain Pelletier.

Mr. Le Goff, what's the origin of the LNB ?

The Ligue Nationale de Basket-Ball was founded in June 1987. The founder is Jean Bayle-Lespitau who was also a founder of ULEB with Eduardo Portela and Gian Luigi Porelli. The need of creating a league was based on the success of ACB ( Spain's League ) and the possibility offered by the French law of 1984. The main difference between LNB and other leagues is ' by law - the fact that the league is not an association of clubs but an entity acting by delegation of the federation and representing all the the parties (clubs, players, coaches, referees,doctors, and federation). The first decision of the LNB was to change the strategy of the competitions by introducing the playoffs; the first champion 1988 was the CSP Limoges.

Tell us please how your League is structured, talk about the management Regarding the competition: how many teams in the League ?, competition system and how many teams are relegated / promoted at the end of each season ?

Today LNB is running daily operations with 12 employees which are covering the sport operations (3), marketing and communication (3), financial control of clubs (2) and admininstrative/finance operations (4). The structure is headed by a General Secretary. The chairman of LNB is also General Manager. All major decisions are taken by a Board of 17 members including only 8 representing the clubs and 4 representing the federation; the others are representing players, coaches, Four Vice-presidents are helping/supporting the chairman running the operations.

The league started with two divisions of 16 clubs each and still we have PRO A(16) and PRO B (18) with a total of 34 clubs. The competition system was updated in 2005 and we have a regular season and playoffs. The only difference is our final which is one match in Paris Bercy. At the end of the season two clubs are relegated from PRO A to PRO B (last two of the regular season) and two clubs are promoted in PRO A (the PRO B champion and the first of the regular season).

We are running also the '“Semaine des AS' which is the same model of the 'Copa del Rey'. This cup of the French league is well appreciated. The French Federation is running the National Cup adding 6 dates in our calendar with a final by mid-may. Other events are the All Star Game by the end of December, Trophee's ceremony awards, Young championship including the '“Trophee du Futur'.

On the players: which are LNB regulations on players eligibility ?

Today and for the next season each team in PRO A have a maximum of 6 foreign players of whom 2 should be European; and normally 6 French players. We have no special regulation of players on the court but we have big pressure from the syndicate of players to decrease by 1 or 2 the number of foreign players.

We recently decided to move in September 2010 to a new system based on the concept of '“Young Ground Players' based on the decisions of UEFA and well appreciated by the European Commission. We will have a maximum of 5 players who were not licenced by the French Federation before their 21st anniversary; which means foreign players but also some nationalized players!

And what can you say about the TV situation of the League ?.

By law the Federation is the owner of all rights including marketing and Television. The French Federation has delegated the marketing rights to the league since 1987 but will do the same this year for the TV rights.

Our contract with Canal+ is ending now and we are finalising a 4 years contract with Canal+/Sport+ starting in September 2009 and giving us the double of money we received this year.

Sport+ will cover 2 matches per week (Friday and Saturday) and all the matches of the Playoffs and the Semaine des AS. Canal+ is covering big events; especially the Finals and the All Star Game.

Please mention and comment about the sponsors of the League and the arenas / attendance to Pro A games

We are not very good in selling our league which was not the case at the beginning of the league; at this time I was general manager of IBM which was during 6 years the partner of the LNB (starting statistics in 1987!). Today we have partners (e;g. Nike, Spalding,) but not a '“title sponsor' we are looking for.

The attendance in our arenas is improving year after year and the season we measured an average of 3 800 spectators in PRO A with a filling of 83%. In PRO B we have an average of 1 800 spectators. We are pleased with this improvement but not pleased with our too small arenas; the biggest arena is Pau with 7 800 spectators and we have only one arena in France more than 10 000 seats which is Bercy. A lot of projects are under a finalisation phase but we are stil waiting (Lyon, Orleans, Dunkerque, Rouen, Antibes). A very important point is the fact that the league could not impose any minimum of the size of the arena; the law doesn't allow us to do that'.

Media: how do they treat the League in France ?. What has been the evolution of media coverage in these last years ?

Media coverage is improving year after year but it's very difficult to compete at the national level with big sport events, football, rugby and NBA. Number of French players are in NBA and the biggest medias are only interested by this American league. The local media coverage is very good but the economic crisis is impacting this province press.

To improve the media coverage we had to create big events and the decision for a single final or a very successful All Star Game in Paris Bercy were excellent to measure the improvement of the national media coverage.

What about the relationship with the French Basketball Federation ?

The relationships with the French Federation are simple and complex. The law imposes us a delegation system and we should work under rules managed by the the Ministry of Sports; in fact we have no room to be more independent.

In order to get more power from the law, five leagues (Basket, Football, Handball, Rugby and Volley) created an Union 3 years ago. Since the beginning we have been working, as a lobby entity, to get a new Sport Law. It's not against the Federation but only to define new frontiers.

Which are your plans of future for the League ?. Please tell us about the most important projects you have in mind or already working related to the future.

LNB has been working for 5 years with INEUM Consulting in putting in place a '“New League'. This project is delayed waiting for changes in the law but most of what should be done at the club level is in place; for example a back office organisation running all the staff duties, capable of ticketing,' Our biggest challenge is to get new arenas. As I mentioned before things are moving' but very slowly. The '“New French League' should be based on clubs with arenas over 10 000 seats; and it's still a long way to go!

How do you imagine the LNB in 10 years ?

In 10 years from now the European basketball organisations will have a key role and the national leagues should develop a strategy in line with these predictable European moves. It's very simple to think European harmonisation in marketing rules or arena's standards but it's more complex in competition system. I have a big question mark about the strategy of Euroleague because I think it's too early to move to '“life's licences' system but I fully support the need of stabilisation especially with investment in big arenas. ULEB should have a key role in helping the national leagues to move in the right direction with a complementary role in the competition systems.

Please mention any aspect of your League you deem important or interesting for the fans.

Basketball is very popular in France (500.000 licences) but we are competing more and more with Rugby and Handball.