Jordi Bertomeu, the Euroleague Basketball President and CEO, met with French media on Friday alongside Tony Parker, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne President and controlling shareholder, Gaetan Muller, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne Managing President, and Jean-Michel Aulas, President of Olympique Lyonnais, prior to ASVEL's Round 18 game against visiting Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Here is a transcript of their comments:
Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO:
"Bonsoir. First, I want to say that I appreciate the hospitality that our friends here at ASVEL have given us during our whole day here in Villeurbanne.
"I'd like to note that we are in a season that is very complicated, very difficult. We all know the pandemic is affecting us. But I'd also like to say that despite these difficulties, we are making sure that the season goes forward. We've played the whole 7DAYS EuroCup Regular Season. We've played the first leg of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season. We've played every game except three. And this is thanks to the effort that the clubs have made to complete the calendar and complete our objective, which is to offer once again this magnificent competition to our fans, who unfortunately are still not with us in the arenas.
"The decision to suspend last season was for sure the most unpleasant decision that I've taken in my life. Because the season was going along beautifully, with lots of competitiveness, with all the indicators of audience very high, especially in France, where interest in basketball had grown 41%. So I think that having to cancel the season in those moments was very painful for all of us.
"Speaking of France, I know that there have been many comments made in recent days, so I am going to reveal the reason that we are here. Last November, the Euroleague Board authorized us to continue forward with our plan for the future, which basically consists of the EuroLeague being composed of 18 teams, with ASVEL Villeurbanne, without doubt, along with FC Bayern Munich, being primary candidates to achieve long-term contracts. And I'll explain why.
"First, as I started to mention, it's very clear that France is very important for European basketball. It's very important to have a strong, consolidated and traditional club like ASVEL Villeurbanne in France.
"Second, in 2014, ASVEL Villeurbanne entered into a new project when Tony [Parker] took charge of the club with his team, with Gaetan [Muller] and the whole team, and this prompted a great collaboration with the EuroLeague over these years.
"Third, because the club's partnership with Olympique Lyonnaise has given this project another dimension, additional ambition for the future and additional long-term stability that, for us, is fundamental.
"And lastly, because we share the same vision of the future of sports in Europe, and of basketball in particular. It's a pleasure to share this vision with two people, in this case Tony and [Olympique Lyonnais] President [Jean-Michel] Aulas, who are visionaries, and for that reason can help us a lot to develop this project.
"And to finish, this morning we had a very interesting conversation about the commitments that both sides should make for the future, both Euroleague Basketball and ASVEL. It has been a very positive conversation. Once more, we are very aligned in terms of how to work together in the future. And I am very convinced that no later than the end of February or beginning of March, we can announce that the agreement and collaboration of ASVEL with the EuroLeague, and the integration of ASVEL as one of the 13 owners, that is one owner more of the EuroLeague, is going to be a fact.
"I just wish to thank once again ASVEL and President Aulas because they shared their vision and we've been able to understand better the project of the building of a new arena, which is fundamental for us, and confirm that the decision is the correct one. And I hope we can make it official very soon. Merci."
Tony Parker, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne President and controlling shareholder
"This license to participate in the EuroLeague has been the main goal since I landed here in 2014 together with Gaetan. Our conversations today have been very positive and we are working for this license to become a reality in February or March. I thank Jordi for his trust in ASVEL and also Jean-Michel Aulas, who has also trusted us to achieve this project, which we have almost finished. Having good news in such difficult moments is very good. We need to be positive, together with Jean-Michel's visionary team, and with Jordi and his team we will continue making sport grow."
Jean-Michel Aulas, President of Olympique Lyonnais
"I want to thank Jordi because he not only provided his modern vision of sport in the world of basketball but also in the world of sports in general, allowing the project that Tony has here in ASVEL to grow. We know that to achieve such an important project, we need to have a financial structure that allows us to maintain the project from an investment perspective, which is now the most important point, and for the arena. But also for other things that you need to have not only to achieve a permanent presence in the EuroLeague, but to also have an important role and to reach the top, because this is the passion that Tony, his team and I share. We try to give the resources to this arena to create the ecosystem for ASVEL to generate the resources to be at the top level. This arena is progressing, approved by a majority of the municipality voting, allowing us to bring a modern project because such an important project should allow us to improve the team at a competitive level but at the same time promote the participation of the whole city as well as other companies, having a different vision of modern basketball, which is very different compared to 20 years ago. This arena has all the characteristics to provide a high level of satisfaction to all users. It is an ambitious project of around €140 million that hasn't been easy but we have achieved all the formalities. We have regular contact with both ASVEL and Euroleague as we will not only build an arena for ASVEL but the best sports arena in France, giving all guarantees to ASVEL to achieve success at both the national and international levels."
Gaetan Muller, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne Managing President
"This is great news, especially during these times. That shows the confidence between ASVEL, Euroleague and Olympique Lyonnais, which is very important, as every time Jordi comes, things move forward. There are a lot of people working for this project and this is very positive news for our collaborators, our fans who do not have the chance now to attend our games, and also for our partners. This arena will allow us to have a new perspective, to think bigger, and to attract more resources, while at the same time maintaining the familiar and united values of ASVEL and the city of Villeurbanne."
Question: Why is the license not confirmed today?
Jordi Bertomeu: "Because it's a process in which we have to explain to the club the implications of being an owner of the EuroLeague. We have explained what are our commitments to the club, when it's an owner of the EuroLeague. It's a dialogue that has to take place, and today has been an introduction to this dialogue. When I said it was positive, it's because I felt assured that what we have explained and what ASVEL explained to us had an enormous level of coincidence. For that reason, it makes us think that in a few weeks we will be able to formalize the agreement. It's evident that once we are totally in agreement, the board of the EuroLeague will have to give its approval. But I insist that it's a process and a conversation that we initiated today and we will continue in the coming days and weeks, because it's not an easy process. You have to know and review many areas: structural, economic and plans for the future. All those questions have to be worked on and do not happen in one morning. But I repeat, the high level of agreement we have makes me think that it will be only a question of time until we can announce it officially. But today it's not done, because it can't be done today."
Question: What is the duration of the contract?
Jordi Bertomeu: "The license is for 10 years, the same as for the 11 current clubs that have long-term licenses. And once those 10 years are complete, it extends automatically for 10 more, and so on, successively. What's important to understand is that ASVEL will be involved in every decision going forward. In the moment that the club becomes part of the ownership of the EuroLeague, the club is in the decision process of continuing and extending these contracts. Not like now, that the club doesn't participate in these decisions. Once the club is a member of the ownership of the EuroLeague, it will be at the table where these decisions are taken, and, as such, there is no risk that ASVEL would not continue in the future when these 10 years are completed."
Question: What are ASVEL's projects besides the license and the new arena?
Tony Parker: "First things first, and the arena and the license are the priority, to consolidate them. So now, we will focus our efforts to reach February or March to obtain the license and, after that, we will focus with Olympique Lyonnais on the arena. And after that, we will start thinking of what will come next. But now we have very clear goals on the horizon and it is important to focus on them."
Question: When do you expect to obtain the license?
Tony Parker: "This is something that we want to do as soon as possible. That's why we have mentioned February or March, as there will be a board meeting held with the 11 clubs and we hope that the decision will be positive."