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  • FIBA Chief Aims to Heal European Conflicts


    (ATR) FIBA secretary general Andreas Zagklis has set his sights on achieving what many in the sport deem near impossible – making the warring European bodies cooperative buddies.
    FIBA secretary general Andreas Zagklis at SportAccord (ATR)

    Zagklis, formerly FIBA’s director of legal services and general counsel, is six months into his reign as secretary general of basketball’s world governing body. He took over the position on Dec. 8, weeks after the sudden death of Patrick Baumann at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.

    Speaking to media at SportAccord on the Gold Coast on Wednesday, Zagklis said he was buoyed by the opportunities contained in a new five-year plan and the progression of 3x3 basketball, which will be represented at the Tokyo Olympics.

    But he didn’t shy away from admitting the Europe battleground is his biggest challenge.

    Simply, his message was that the “war” in Europe has to end. And he wants to play a devil’s advocate role in making it happen.

    Collaboration Vital to Unlock Potential

    Basketball has been fractured on the European continent for two decades since the advent of EuroLeague being controlled privately by member clubs and its legal and commercial powerhouse ECA (European Commercial Assets – the commercial and legal entity of EuroLeague). The interests of the clubs, which compete over two tiers in the EuroLeague and Euro Cup, have often conflicted with the national teams.

    The EuroLeague Final Four will be played on May 17 and May 19 (Getty Images)
    But Zagklis said the sport’s potential on the continent will never be achieved unless there is “collaboration” and all stakeholders can see the strength of pooling their resources for the future of the greater game.

    “We have to transition from a war terminology into a collaborative terminology and I believe there is no other way forward for our sport and our clubs,” said Zagklis who has been heavily involved in legal disputes between ECA and FIBA.

    “Bringing balance that we have achieved in four other continents - in the balance between clubs, federations and leagues on the European continent - is one of our [most important] challenges although it has been on the radar for some time.

    “We had a breakaway 20 years ago and that breakaway was from national leagues who started operating EuroLeague and Euro Cup,” he added.

    “Fast forward a few years and these national leagues have now lost control of these competitions to a small group of clubs. Right now, we have four European club competitions operating and obviously we are not reaching, neither on the commercial or on the sporting side, the potential that European basketball has.”

    Zagklis said the only solution was collaboration. “ECA can’t do this alone, the national leagues cannot do this alone and the federations cannot do this alone,” he said.

    “What is most important here is that this is a moment of truth for national leagues in Europe.

    “Either they will become stronger and maintain and even grow their position as we believe they should as they represent the vast majority of clubs, or they will become what the ECA want them to be, which is a third division of Europe.

    “We are working with them and we are investing in that direction and we hope in the near future ECA can join us in finding a strong position for national leagues in the Euro environment and we can join efforts in properly commercialising this environment.”

    But considering the history, and ECA’s strong commercial interests and assets which are now controlled in unison with IMG, can this realistically happen?

    “If we can have a rational discussion with the growth of the sport as a whole in mind, yes I can see that,” Zagklis said.

    Rising Profile of 3x3 Format

    3x3 basketball at Buenos Aires 2018 (BA 2018)
    Zagklis spoke of the rapid emergence of the 3x3 version of the sport which he says has grown exponentially through digitals channels like YouTube and is creating new personalities outside of the traditional major sporting competitions like America’s NBA.

    He said a priority was developing new superstars outside of those currently in the five-person game.

    He believes the World Cup in Beijing from Aug. 31 to Sept. 5 will be basketball’s biggest event in years. A full-time staff of seven is stationed in Beijing preparing the tournament.

    “It is marked in our calendar as our top event. It is our biggest World Cup with 32 teams; we have moved it early by one year, and it goes to a country that loves basketball,” he said.

    “I visited Beijing 10 days ago and the [sports] minister told me that in terms of popularity in the young population, it is the most popular sport in China.

    “It is about engaging our fans and feeling from them that they really look forward to this World Cup taking place. The draw is an example. We had a draw in Shenzhen and 8,000 people paid tickets to attend, and the event was live streamed on the Internet and broadcast by our partners.

    “The interest of the fans is very impressive.”

    Reported by Neil Cadigan at SportAccord in Gold Coast, Australia

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