To mark the return to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague of Buducnost VOLI Podgorica after 15 seasons, Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO, met with the Montenegrin media alongside club president Dragan Bokan before the team's home game against Khimki Moscow Region on Thursday.
Dragan Bokan, President, Buducnost VOLI Podgorica:
"Good evening. I want to welcome Mr. Jordi Bertomeu to Podgorica, to Montenegro and to the basketball club Buducnost VOLI. This is an honor. After once earlier his visit was postponed due to technical reasons, today Mr. Bertomeu is here with us. He is our guest for the game between Buducnost and Khimki tonight and will be here until tomorrow afternoon. I know you are interested to hear what Mr. Bertomeu has to say and what the EuroLeague's plans are in the next period. I want to thank the media for showing this mass interest. During the meeting between EuroLeague and the Buducnost management, we were told, and I quote, that 'EuroLeague has gotten more than expected from Buducnost.' That makes us really satisfied. One of the questions asked to us was whether we are satisfied as a club, if the fans are happy, and if the overall public is happy and enjoying being in the EuroLeague. I told them what all of Europe and the world could see that Podgorica is experiencing basketball fever, which is something what we wanted and we hoped for, and is the reason why we invested, so that we could have this sports and basketball spectacle every seven to 10 days in Podgorica. I have to say we have done a lot in our first EuroLeague season. I hope that it's the first season of many and that we will have a continuity in the EuroLeague. But not to spread any wrong information, Buducnost and any club in the region needs to secure its place in the EuroLeague through the sport results on the floor."
Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO:
"The important thing is that today we are here because Buducnost is in the EuroLeague. Buducnost is in the EuroLeague thanks to the huge effort the club made during the summertime. You know that our standards are high, very demanding and each one of the commitments the club took during the first meeting we had in March, April, each one has been fulfilled in an excellent way. Since the season started, our staff has been enjoying a day-to-day cooperation with club staff. The club staff is performing at a very high level of professionalism. And it is exactly what we need because the league is an aggregation of efforts and all of them are important. So there is no one team more or less important from this standpoint. I think this will also help the club grow as an organization. The club is helping us to improve our footprint in the region. And there is something that many people forget, but I will never forget and I always want to express my gratitude that Buducnost was one of the brave teams that started and founded the EuroLeague back in 2000. It was a difficult decision to take at that time. But to honor the name of the team had a very clear vision of the future. And we have to honor the pioneers of the EuroLeague and Buducnost was among them.
"We know that the atmosphere in this gym is very special. In fact, the whole region is special for us. In the 11 games you have played at home, I think you have proved it is a very respectful and passionate fan base and we love this.
"Nobody knows what will happen in the future, but I don't see in the midterm a change in the format of the competition. We experimented with the playoff formula in the first season as you correctly mentioned, it was great, but it was the business of Vitoria and Bologna. Today the Final Four is broadcast in 200 countries; we have 500 journalists coming from all over the world and we sell the tickets in about 24 hours. I think that we built this product. I don't see a moment when we will change. The competition is about to be appealing, to respond to what the fans want and this is the most important thing because we work for the fans. It's clear that the Final Four is the model that has been successful and I have no intention to change this concept.
"My opinion is that the EuroLeague will keep 18 [teams] in the midterm, for at least the next five years. Eighteen is a good number because it's a good combination between quality and distribution of the territory. And 18 allows the club to compete at the domestic league level, which is very important for the European ecosystem. So we add Bayern Munich and ASVEL Lyon because we believe that will help us to grow the popularity of basketball in two big European markets. It's obvious that we are conducting conversations with London and Paris to see if there is a future option to have a long-term license club in those markets. But I don't think we will have changes in the next seasons. The only change we can have is to see if we can increase one more team for the EuroCup to the EuroLeague, to give two spots. We have to work on that, so don't ask me to be concrete, but the only idea, the only change I see for the future is this one. Because if the EuroCup clubs perform well while in the EuroLeague, we can see if you can give them an option to stay in the EuroLeague because the current system is a little bit unfair... If the EuroCup door to the EuroLeague is wider, there are more options for the teams from the region to get to the EuroLeague.
"It's important to assume that it's my obligation to bring the EuroLeague to the superior level. It's clear that there are two sports that are on the superior level in Europe. One of them, obviously, is the football Champions League. The second one is rugby. Eighty percent of the Champions League income comes from the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain. And 90% of the rugby income comes from France and U.K. So it's about how ambitious you want to be. You said that in U.K. there is no basketball tradition. I think it will be more fair to say there is no basketball competition. Because basketball in the U.K. is the second sport in participants, the second. So it's about the work. It's not easy, it's a challenge. It's about the work and we love challenges. It cannot be compared with the London Towers experience. At that time, we could offer teams a five-game guarantee at home. That was the maximum we could offer at home. With no domestic league, it was impossible. Now we are offering 17 home games - 34 in total. It's a different step, it's a different product.
"In the summer of 2015, FIBA presented an offer with an investment bank to our clubs and they rejected it because the EuroLeague is owned by the clubs. The clubs are the owners. They are not participants, they are the owners. So if you have something that you create, that you have been growing for years, what is the meaning? I don't know what FIBA will do in the future. It's a new time for FIBA. Unfortunately, we had the sad circumstances of the general secretary passing away last October. And there is now a new time. I am confident that our relationship will be better. Clearly, we had a different vision about the basketball structure, the basketball organization, but I believe that through dialogue, sincere real dialogue, we can handle and we can manage to work together in the future."