Jordi Bertomeu, President and CEO of Euroleague Basketball, spoke to Future Stars about bringing Europe’s premier basketball event to London and long term plans for Euroleague to leave a permanent footprint on the nation’s capital and British Basketball.
FS: How important was it for Euroleague to bring this tournament to London ?
JB: For us to have the opportunity to showcase European basketball in one of the most important cities in terms of most recent sporting visibility on a worldwide stage is very important. It is also an amazing opportunity to help British basketball to promote the game here. For us it is a venture of opportunities that we are trying to take advantage of. I believe that so far we have completed the objectives that we set ourselves.
FS: The NBA have been here for several years and didn’t make a huge impact on English basketball . In what way can Euroleague approach the English market to be more successful?
JB: The approach has to be different. Coming here for one event is not going to work, this is clear. We know that Final Four will not be enough , that is why from the very beginning we knew that we would have to have a more constant presence in the British market. To achieve this we are trying to work together with different organisations to make the British the holders of the event. We are working on projects with different British organisations such as the BBL to develop grass roots programs for example.
We have to have a long term vision, and to be patient, not thinking that we can make the game grow in a couple of years which is simply impossible. We have to have consistency and determination in developing a programme that works at all levels with the locals as the holders. This is our vision rather than coming here for one event and then leaving nothing behind.
FS: As part of the programme of activities here in London, Euroleague held an ‘Innovation in Sport Business Summit’ at city hall on Friday. Simon Cooper Head of Sport at Mayor’s London Office who was one of the panel at this event identified Euroleague’s ‘One Team’ project as a defining factor which stands Euroleague apart from organisations such as the NBA in terms of the long term approach to the UK.
JB: This is one of the aspects that we want to implement to make a difference. Our presence here has to be a little bit deep, has to be connected to the reality and more connected to the communities. In this specific aspect, our corporation and social responsibility program has to be not just for show but actually be helpful. The co-operation we have had so far regarding this program with the BBL has been very satisfactory and I hope to be able to continue working with them.
FS: There is no doubt that the presence of an English team in Euroleague would immensely increase your popularity here and the media attention in England. How do you envisage this problem? Do you think an English team will compete anytime soon in Euroleague?
JB: It is our vision and it is our hope. But at the same time it is clear that it cannot happen overnight. The competition in the leagues here is a little bit different at the moment in terms of standards. Together we have to identify if there is a local project with a mission, vision and wish to make priorities to be part of a European programme and then work together with these teams to properly promote them in the Eurocup. It has to be a long term process that will probably take three or four years to have a team which will be able to compete at this level in Euroleague competition. It is definitely our vision.