A major conflict between world basketball governing body FIBA and the Euroleague could have ramifications for the Rio Olympics.
With a FIBA executive committee meeting set for this weekend, the Associated Press reported earlier this week that 14 European federations could find their international eligibility in jeopardy, with Spain, Serbia and Italy among the major basketball nations at risk.
According to the AP, eight federations: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia and Spain, have already been sent letters informing them of their “lost right” to play in the FIBA Eurobasket competition in 2017. Six more, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Poland and Turkey, must clarify their position with relation to ECA, the Euroleague’s operating body.
The possible ramifications stem from a long-standing clash of competitive interests between the Euroleague and FIBA. Top European clubs have long competed in the privately-operated Euroleague, which in November 2015 agreed to a 10-year contract with sponsor IMG and a new competition model that made 11 teams permanent members out of a 16-team field, removing them from the annual re-qualification process.
The Euroleague’s new agreement with the clubs came at the expense of FIBA’s proposal to start its own Basketball Champions League, a competition sanctioned by the governing body that would have effectively replaced the Euroleague. FIBA attempted to woo the continent’s top teams, 11 of which committed to remain in the Euroleague. Without the involvement of nearly all of Europe’s flagship franchises, the governing body now looks to be throwing its weight around on the international level instead.
Per the AP, the 14 aforementioned federations had a Wednesday deadline to prove to FIBA their clubs and leagues did not have agreements with ECA. It remains unclear what exactly this means for Olympic berths and tournaments down the road. Israel and Turkey are two of four countries slated to host the 2017 Eurobasket. Spain is scheduled to host the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup.
The 11 clubs committed to the Euroleague span countries and federations: Anadolu Efes (Turkey), CSKA Moscow (Russia), Emporio Armani Milan (Italy), FC Barcelona (Spain), Fenerbahce (Turkey), Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (Spain), Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel), Olympiacos (Greece), Panathinaikos (Greece), Real Madrid (Spain) and Zalgiris (Lithuania).
FIBA went on with its plans to create its own Champions League, a 32-team competition with an initial field of 56. The organization said Sunday that its upcoming executive meeting “will discuss the possibility of taking decisions in relation to worldwide events.”
As it stands, Spain and Lithuania are the only two nations locked into Olympic berths. Croatia, Greece, Italy, Serbia and Turkey are set to participate in final qualifiers in July, with Italy and Serbia each hosting one of FIBA’s three six-team qualifying rounds.