|Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO, press conference
Full press conference downloadable video, only for editorial usage HERE
Watch the full press conference HERE
Euroleague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu held a virtual press conference with international media on Wednesday to update them on the organization's planning as concerns the continent's top two basketball competitions, the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and the 7DAYS EuroCup, both of which were suspended when the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12.
"Good afternoon to everyone. Thank you for joining us today. And I wish you all good health, you and your families in these difficult times. It's already a month since we suspended the competitions, one month when we could not have the opportunity to talk to you as I usually do when we have games, and I have the opportunity to go to the games. So probably it's time to share with you our thoughts, our ideas, and also to listen to your questions or any qualification you want to know.
Clearly, we are in a moment of great difficulty for everyone, for communities, for businesses, a moment never seen before at a global level. Probably, we don't have to think about ourselves. There are things more important than us, and this is the health of our communities.
We should wait and see the evolution of the pandemic in each of our markets, but give priority to what really matters, which is people's health. As I said, we were forced to suspend our competitions, the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and the 7DAYS EuroCup, on March 12th. We did it hours before it was public, the first case of COVID-19 of a Real Madrid player, a few hours later than the NBA, days before UEFA suspended its competitions, and the week that many other competitions were suspended and when the World Health Organization confirmed the pandemic.
Since that day, we have been working in detail to confirm the impact of this crisis on our clubs, their players, their economy and, most importantly, their communities. We have been talking with all of them permanently, in groups and individually. We have held two board meetings to assess the situation. We have adopted measures to alleviate the situation of our referees. We have been in permanent contact with the players and coaches Associations to look for solutions that help our clubs to be viable in this moment of difficulty. And we expect to have specific results from these conversations soon.
Together with our partners IMG we are evaluating the impact of the suspensions on our economy, but I already anticipate that it's is still too soon to have conclusions because this depends on the final scenario, and if we can resume playing or not, and in the case that we could finish, in which conditions. I want to take advantage of this opportunity to express my gratitude for the loyalty, understanding and collaboration we are enjoying from our partners, both media partners and sponsors.
We are thinking about our communities, our fans, and we believe that once again our mission, our purpose as a league, is to offer something that they want and long for: basketball of the highest quality.
And we want to resume our competitions. Perhaps our fans will not be able to attend games in person, but our television and marketing partners will be our allies to bring them what they expect, especially in these difficult moments that we are living in Europe.
We want to do it, but we will do it only when the health conditions permit. We will not jeopardize the health of our players, coaches or referees. We will not jeopardize the health of our fans, and we will not jeopardize the health of our teams or the arena staff or ourselves. No one.
But if we can guarantee there is no risk, and only when we can guarantee the health of all people, then we will come back and resume the season. And we want to finish in the current format. So, we want to keep the regular season, playing six remaining rounds. We want to play playoffs and Final Four. And we have a protocol ready that includes: three days for players to go back to their cities; two weeks quarantine; and at least two weeks training before the start of the competition.
Today we can say something that is obvious: the Final Four will not be able to be played on the 22nd and 24th of May in Cologne. It's uncertain that it will be able to be played later. We are in permanent contact with Cologne, with the municipality and with LANXESS Arena to look for alternative dates.
In this context, it is obvious that we are going to proceed with the reimbursement of the full amount of money of those who have bought tickets through the official channels, and they will maintain the priority to buy again the tickets if the event can be played with fans on another date.
We also need to anticipate that perhaps we cannot keep the current format. This is a possibility. We are a European competition and we have more constraints than domestic leagues. I think this is obvious. Therefore, as we have already advanced, we are working on an alternative plan that includes resuming the regular season in a country with a facility ready for our games, and probably to substitute the playoffs for a Final Eight that will replace as well the Final Four. But the most important condition will be to have guarantees for the health of our teams.
Obviously, we are also working on alternative plans for our 7DAYS EuroCup. Because it's less complex: there are only eight teams left in the playoff places, indicates that if the EuroLeague can be resumed, the same will happen with the EuroCup. Just like with the EuroLeague, we are also working on two scenarios, including one with a central venue to play the final of the competition.
We continue monitoring the COVID-19 evolution in all club markets. We are working on budgets for the alternative plans in both competitions. We are working on a daily basis with basketball and other team sports competition organizers in Europe and North America to establish high-level medical protocols for return to play. We are reviewing medical facilities to support all clubs, as well as other elements that are necessary to provide a safe and healthy environment for all participants. We have draft calendars, including dates and tip-off times, if we can proceed, with the decision taken by the clubs.
We have been working on all these things, but to date, such a decision cannot be made. During the month of May and probably towards the end of the month, we will have enough developments that will enable the clubs to take a well-informed decision.
For us to fulfill this objective, I am convinced that we are going to count on the complicity of our players and coaches. They are also suffering these moments of uncertainty and difficulty. But I am certain that their commitment with the fans is total and I think that they will make necessary sacrifices to make it possible in case we have the opportunity, and I want to thank them in advance.
And I will also like to thank the effort that our clubs, owners, players, coaches, ambassadors and officials are making to try to be as close as possible to our fans in these difficult days. I am very proud to see countless initiatives and donations that are emerging from all collectives, who understand their influence in the community and their duty to return what they give us.
Although we are now concentrated on making as much as possible to help the fans and our communities to spend this time in the best possible way, we also need a steady commitment to keep looking for ways in which the Euroleague family can help these damaged communities and they start over again even stronger, with more solid and sustainable principles.
We are also thinking about the future. The sports industry will have consequences from this crisis, that is obvious. It's clear that this is a time of uncertainty, but we also have certainties.
We know that we must get out of this crisis better prepared, with clear ideas, and great determination. I have a strong belief that this crisis, the new situation and difficulties that we and our clubs are facing, will give us stronger arguments to go ahead with our projects, that are not stopped, and even more, I believe that the crisis will definitely help us to solve structural problems that we have had for years.
But will be time to talk about this. Now, we are going to continue to concentrate on our communities with the collaboration of our clubs, our players, our coaches. We are going to be centered in making these times of difficulties more bearable, in giving them the hope that soon we will be together in a basketball arena. This is our dream.
I wish to finish by expressing our gratitude for your collaboration and your understanding. I imagine that these days your task is also even more difficult, so we have to look for ways to help you too, as well. Thank you again for joining us today.
Among the other issues that Bertomeu addressed were the following:
On scenarios for resuming the EuroLeague
"We believe that we cannot [play] later than the end of July. We are absolutely against playing games in September and October. That will impact and jeopardize the following season. We will have problems. So we already have every season problems with calendars. So postponing games to September-October, we can only increase these problems. And that's why we believe we have to avoid this negative impact on the 20-21 season, in many areas. Access criteria to leagues, game scheduling, teams' preseason, players' holidays. All these things will be disturbed with us playing games in September and October. So we discard this scenario. The last possible date to play EuroLeague games should be the end of July, in my opinion."
"We want to finish in the current format. So, we want to keep the regular season, playing six remaining rounds. We want to play playoffs and Final Four. And we have a protocol ready that includes: three days for players to go back to their cities; two weeks quarantine; and at least two weeks training before the start of the competition. We also need to anticipate that perhaps we cannot keep the current format. This is a possibility. We are a European competition and we have more constraints than domestic leagues. I think this is obvious.. Therefore, as we have already advanced, we are working on an alternative plan that includes resuming the regular season in a country with a facility ready for our games, and probably to substitute the playoffs for a Final Eight that will replace as well the Final Four. But the most important condition will be to have guarantees for the health of our teams."
"Obviously, we are also working on alternative plans for our 7DAYS EuroCup. Because it's less complex: there are only eight teams left in the playoff places, indicates that if the EuroLeague can be resumed, the same will happen with the EuroCup. Just like with the EuroLeague, we are also working on two scenarios, including one with a central venue to play the final of the competition."
On the Final Four and those who purchased tickets already
"Today we can say something that is obvious: the Final Four will not be able to be played on the 22nd and 24th of May in Cologne. It's uncertain that it will be able to be played later. We are In permanent contact with Cologne, with the municipality and with LANXESS Arena to look for alternative dates. In this context, it is obvious that we are going to proceed with the reimbursement of the full amount of money of those who have bought tickets through the official channels, and they will maintain the priority to buy again the tickets in the that the event can be played with fans on another date."
On criteria for cities and venues if there are Final Eights
"For sure we will need arenas that in this moment are prepared for playing EuroLeague games terms of infrastructure, so that's the first restriction. And second, we also have to see which markets have been more impacted by the crisis, by the virus. So in this particular moment, that's impossible to assess. But as I said the most important thing is to see these conditions in terms of sanitary conditions for our players, then facilities and then trying to create an environment that can be more close to the normal environment in terms of safety for all of our teams. To make this announcement today is impossible because it's too early, but we are working on different alternatives as I said because I mentioned that we are working on the budget, working on all these things so of course, we have ideas, but there are many, many options at this moment. And it's too early to say which one or start to speculate which destination we can have to play these tournaments."
"We are not building this case in a bubble. We are really taking into account what’s happened in each one of the countries, so, as I said, we are following the evolution of the virus in each one of the countries. So, if the question is about the alternative plan, we have to choose a country that can host these events. Of course, as I said, one of the main aspects to be taken into consideration is to evaluate how much the virus has impacted this particular country, but not only this, if the country, the market and the city, is able to provide the sanitary requirements that we are going to ask in order to keep all of our group of players, coaches, referees, teams and all this group of people that in this case will be moving to this market in safe conditions. So it's what we are doing at this moment. We are working and talking with different cities, in order to see options and availabilities of hospitals, for example, as well as we are working on budgets and things like that."
On timeline of decision making about the current season
"As I said, we have to take the decision in May, not earlier than middle May and probably more close to the end of May. So this is the scheduling that we have in front of us. But as happens in many things in these circumstances, those timelines can be changed and not postponed, not earlier than in the end of May for sure, because as I said we are monitoring all the countries and so we have some information from Germany that is different from what we have in Italy, so we are trying to keep ourselves up-to-date about everything that's happening in our markets. Let’s say, it's very dynamic, the current situation, so to make predictions is just risky and probably it's not worth it to do it. But we can say at the maximum have to make a decision by the end of May."
On the situation of the players
"I am convinced that we are going to count on the complicity of our players and coaches. They are also suffering these moments of uncertainty and difficulty. But I am certain that their commitment with the fans is total and I think that they will make necessary sacrifices to make it possible in case we have the opportunity, and I want to thank them in advance."
"As a matter of principle we're not going to even plan to resume the competitions if we don't have 100 percent guarantees of the safety of our players, our coaches, referees and all the people involved in our games. So this is clear. So the question is more about how to convince them. Because we assume that the conditions will be there. And the only thing we can do is with transparency. Offering them the possibility – it's what we want and what we will do if that's the case, which I hope will be the case – offering them the opportunity to be able to go together with us see how we're going to organize this event, so this has been part of, is part of the conversation that we already had with the union of players, so we won't involve them of course in the decision, because the decision belongs to the clubs, but we will do everything possible to make them comfortable with the decision. But for this, there will be fundamental transparency. And we will exercise 100 percent transparency in the measures that we're going to take in case we can resume the competition. We will share all of them with the players and in order to be sure that they are comfortable. And only when that will happen, we will proceed."
Crisis impact on league economy, sponsors and partners
"It is probably too early to see how this will finish and if it will have a significant or a less significant impact on our economy. But I am confident because we enjoy this loyalty and commitment [from our partners], because all these conversations are in the framework of understanding the situation, understanding that we have to see different ways to finish the competition. All of them believe that it is better to finish the competitions, we have no exceptions in this point of view. When we will see how it's going to finish is when we will be able to have a more accurate assessment of the impact. But definitely we share with them. But the most important thing, I am sorry I have to insist on that, is to have guarantees that the competition will resume if there are 100-percent guarantees that the health of our players is protected. This is the main driver, the main thing to take into account when taking this decision. If we can guarantee this, then other elements can be taken into consideration."
"Regarding Turkish Airlines, after 10 years of working together, we have a high level of understanding. And despite the fact that we already signed two contracts in these 10 years, and we agreed a month ago that it is clear the common wish to keep working together for the next years, and understanding, as you said, that they have difficulties, and probably the tourist sector and airlines will be probably one of the sectors that will be more affected, but I think that will be transitory, and our agreement with Turkish Airlines has been always looking mid- to long-term. So I am sure that in the mid-term all this situation will be solved, and I am 100 percent sure, confident, and – based in our relationship and our conversations with Turkish Airlines – that we will continue together for the time being."
"Regarding IMG, as you can imagine we are talking together every day and we share from each one's responsibility how this is impacting our partners as I said at the beginning, but there is no reason to be concerned about something that all the companies are doing. Because not only is IMG cutting salaries and the management, we at the EuroLeague level did the same. With the workers, the EuroLeague staff and also, as probably you know, also with the management. So what IMG is doing is approximately what all the companies are trying to do in order to minimize and to resist better the crisis at this particular moment. So the group is a very big group with interests in many different sports businesses across Europe and worldwide and I am sure that they will have to face different problems, but this is the advantage of being in a partnership with a strong and a big company. So we don't have any reason to care about the future, of course, we both will adapt the future to the needs, especially in the short-term, but this is something that is normal in any partnership. So we don't have any reason to be scared about the future or our relationship with IMG."
On next season
"I am optimistic regarding the next season. So being also realistic, probably we will have to adapt ourselves to new conditions in socializing, in our relationships, in going to venues or events with massive attendance. So probably protocols in terms of safety and sanitary conditions of these events will be different. I think this is realistic to foresee. I hope we will start the season playing games with our spectators. This is my hope. If we cannot, then we will have to once again be flexible and for the time that this will not be possible, we will find solutions. But I hope that this situation will finish with the 2019-20 season and will not affect 2020-21."