A new era began this week when the first matches in the group stage of the inaugural Basketball Champions League were staged.
There are big ambitions for the new breakaway competition, which was launched by FIBA this year and is being contested by 40 teams in five groups of eight.
Champions League chief executive Patrick Comninos gave Omnisport the lowdown on the new tournament.
Where did the idea to launch the Champions League arise from?
PC: The idea of the Basketball Champions League comes from the joint will and understanding of both FIBA and many clubs to reshape the landscape of European club competitions. In a saturated market, the idea of Basketball Champions League arose with the intention of protecting the national teams and the domestic leagues, bringing coherence and unity to European club competitions, and keeping the integrity of the game by treating all clubs equally.
What is the aim for the Champions League and how it will differ from the Euroleague?
PC: Our main feature consists of being an innovative 50-50 joint partnership between FIBA and 10 European Leagues that represent numerous clubs. The Basketball Champions League is a pan-European competition based on sporting principles and inclusiveness, and aims at bringing together national champions.
Teams will take part in the Basketball Champions League solely based on their national sportive results, and those sporting principles are paramount for us. As no specific club is therefore guaranteed participation, our shareholders have to be the leagues, via whom the clubs are directly involved. The Basketball Champions League is thus made by the clubs and for the clubs.
Our goal is to position the Basketball Champions League as a top-level competition, but most importantly, to nurture European talents by promoting the openness of the competition and enabling the clubs to raise their level of professionalism by competing with the best European clubs.
By doing so, we bring coherence and transparency, we provide a sound business model for all stakeholders, not only elite clubs, and we develop the sport and protect its integrity by treating all teams equally.
Do you expect the Champions League to capture the imagination beyond Europe?
PC: As the Basketball Champions League is in its inaugural season, it is too early to assess its full scope extent and the potential further developments. As stated, we are developing this competition for the clubs and together with them. Nevertheless, we work hard to offer the clubs and their fans the best possible competition, with high standards in terms of broadcasting, sport, performance and services. By doing so, we are convinced that the success of the event will soon go well beyond European borders.
How much of a tonic was it for teams such as AEK Athens to enter late in the day?
PC: AEK Athens is an historical team in the European basketball scene, a team which has been repeatedly performing at the highest level both in the Greek League and in European competitions. As the core basis of the Basketball Champions League is to promote sporting values, having such a team taking part in our competition is a clear sign that we are on the right track and that competitive clubs want to take an active part in this new project.
What sort of standard can spectators expect in the competition?
PC: Even if this season is only in its inaugural edition, we are working hard to offer a high standard to all spectators. By investing significantly and by concluding strategic partnerships with world leading firms such as Perform, we will be able to service the clubs at a very high level, and allow the fans to witness great basketball performances on the court, whether in the arenas or watching the games on television.
Do you expect more teams to be eager to enter the Champions League in the coming years?
PC: As already mentioned, we are working hard to develop the competition for the clubs and together with them. With the high level of service we aim to achieve and propose to the clubs, we are convinced that it won't go unnoticed, and that more and more clubs will understand our objectives and what we aim to achieve. Still, as we promote a competition based on sporting principles, teams will first have to perform in their own national league in order to earn the right to be part of the competition in the following editions.
How important was it for the Champions League to be set up for the future of basketball in Europe?
PC: It is instrumental. We are all aware of the saturation of the European basketball landscape. Our aim is to reshape this landscape for the sole benefits of the teams, the leagues and, in the end, the sport of basketball itself. We truly believe that by promoting sporting results, we will assist the teams to raise their level of professionalism and create a positive environment that can help them grow their own fan base. We are therefore confident that the Basketball Champions League can be mutually beneficent for all the participating teams, and bring a brighter future for the European basketball.