FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis talked to Sam Corp of SportsPro, covering a wide range of issues of the current state of global basketball.
- On the BCL growth, and the investments from US group GCBH LP
“After three years the Champions League was ready to go into a new era, and we are glad that we have teammates in this process, individuals who have proven pedigree in investment and expertise in the media and entertainment business.
“I think it is a vote of confidence from the market to the BCL. It establishes the BCL as a product that is here to stay, and is here to grow. That is the important statement that this deal brings and gives to the European basketball market. At the same time it brings something that we consider very important: it brings the vision for a very consolidated network of international club competitions under the umbrella of Fiba”.
“So one, it’s a vote of confidence and establishes the product. It gives the long-term vision to the clubs that commit to the BCL that it’s here to stay under certain principles that will not change. And it puts another important stone into a building that is the network of international club competitions, where we of course want to be every year more and more inclusive.”
- On the relationship with ECA and the calendar issues
“FIBA is more interested in shaping the landscape, rather than fully controlling and owning it.”
“I think down the line there will be opportunities, and this is why we have started to talk,” he says, commenting on whether there might be scope for Fiba and EuroLeague to collaborate in the future. “But of course, this is not a process that you can so easily accelerate one way or the other; it is a process that takes time, it is a process that requires the building of an atmosphere of trust, and it requires also some steps from both sides”.
“Fiba has in the past – and in particular in the last 14 months that I have been in charge – shown in a very tangible manner that not only is it ready to talk and negotiate, but it has already made steps in that direction.”
“We will not try to find a way around it, we will keep trying to find a solution to this,” he asserts. “The regularity of the national team presence has proven to be a fundamental parameter for the growth of our sport, and for the popularity of our sport. National team can attract non-core basketball audiences to expand our fanbase, which can then be the new fanbase for our clubs and leagues.
“I’m a strong believer in this synergetic co-existence. We do believe that with proper coordination of the calendar there is enough space for everyone to play, enough space for everyone to commercialise their competitions and enough for everyone to service their clients and at the same time their needs.”
- On the Basketball Africa League
“It is the next step in our relationship with the NBA. Our strategies in that respect are aligned. They want to tap into the great potential that the continent with the fastest economic growth has; we both want to tap into the great potential that African players have shown and have proven that they have. We have agreed with the nba on the fundamental principles of club competitions in the Fiba system, which is respecting the sporting criteria in the qualification of teams,” says Zagklis.
“Among the 12 teams, six are the champions of six pre-defined countries, but the other six spots are dedicated to teams that qualify. For the first edition these qualification rounds involved 29 different countries, so you have to understand the multiplying effect that had for Fiba, the fact that there is a dream to play in that league”.
“We are at a period where the construction of new arenas in the continent, with the support of governments, is in a very good rhythm. We are in a period where the clubs, with the support of the NBA, can reach a higher level of professionalism. So besides the promotional element, [there is] the multiplying factor for us to reach more countries, the element of offering players the possibility to play professionally in the continent. If they’re ready to play in a top league in Asia and Europe or even in the NBA, of course the road will be open, but they need to feel the development of their skills in the continent is possible.”
“I believe this project has the potential of making our sport on the men’s side what is already on the women’s side the most popular team sport on the continent,” he asserts. “Of course, the nba has an ambition to become the top lifestyle brand on the continent, and the nba is the best men’s league in the world, and their promotional capabilities are great. I believe that now, as a new product, building on the tradition of the African Champions Cup that has been organised by Fiba Africa in the past, this can really bring a level of popularity of basketball in the continent like we have never seen before.”
- On the FIBA vision
“The vision remains to become the most popular sports community in the world,” he reiterates. “What we’re doing is not a question of personal stamps; what we’re doing is a question of a vision that has been embraced by the entire membership of Fiba. It’s a question of our federations understanding that we work daily to service them, of our players understanding that we’re here to listen to them, not simply to impose rules on them, and for our fans to understand that we’re trying every day to deliver a better product for them. I have tried in these first 14 months to make people understand that a big governing body like Fiba can do macro work without losing its daily face, daily approach and understanding of the situation on the ground. That is one of the biggest challenges for an international organisation.”
- On the success of the FIBA World Cup
“The change came in an abrupt manner, an unexpected manner. I think our central board showed the strength of Fiba’s governance and I’m very proud of our board and our management team. We have managed not only to transition very fast, but also to deliver on all the projects that were in their final phase of preparation implementation, starting of course with the biggest ever, and by all metrics best ever, World Cup.”
“I do believe it was an excellent showcase for our sport,” Zagklis declares. “We saw quality of arenas, branding of arenas, TV production of our games like never before. We saw 32 teams for the first time, an expansion I believe showed to everyone that we needed it as a sport. We saw surprises on the court, we saw a great number of stars, and we saw also some sensational games. I think every single [one] of the 32 federations that participated felt the honour of playing on the big stage, but also the magnitude of the event – not only on how the event was promoted in their countries, but also globally.”