Patrick Comninos, CEO of the Basketball Champions League, met with the accredited press for the Final Four of the Basketball Champions League this Saturday at the Turismo Andaluz facilities. The first thing that Comninos wanted was to show his gratitude to Unicaja and Málaga for the effort made so that everything goes well during these days. “I want to thank the local authorities and Unicaja for their great support in the organization knowing that we had very little time to be able to do so and it has taken a tremendous amount of effort to put together this sensational event. Together we are organizing a great event that allows us to close our campaign on a high in a sensational location, in an incredible pavilion and some great fans”, she pointed out.
It is the first time that both a German and an Israeli team have played in the Final Four. What do you think?
We are going to crown a new champion and a new country. We are sure that the final is going to be a great event, it is a European final. We are very excited to be able to end a great campaign like this on a high note.
The two semifinals could go the other way in a last shot.
I think this highlights the high level of our competition. We knew it was going to be the most competitive to date: two teams in the ACB Top 5, which is the most competitive league in Europe, two Copa del Rey finalists; Bonn is a tremendous example of success in their league and in the BCL; and also Hapoel, a historic European basketball. The semifinals demonstrated the very high level, it was a tremendous finale that extols not only the high level of the final but also of the competition. Now we will see a consolation final that repeats the Copa del Rey final and two finalists who have scored an excellent level throughout this campaign.
The winner, in addition to being crowned European champion, gets a million euros in prizes. Is there a possibility of increasing the distribution of prizes throughout the season?
We are looking at possibilities in terms of the economic distribution of prizes, taking into account that each game counts and we want all teams to benefit. We also cover the costs of production, branding, arbitration… The goal is that no team suffers for playing BCL, we want it to be a satisfactory experience. If you look at the percentage that each team covers in the BCL, it’s very significant. And if you win it must have a big impact on your economy.
Last year they opted for a neutral venue and they have returned to the previous model with a host team.
Last year we enjoyed in a neutral venue demonstrating the moment of maturity of the competition. The neutral site is something that we have in mind, in our strategic vision, but only if it makes sense and that it maintains the level of commitment of the local authorities. This year we have had options but none made us feel comfortable. Here in Malaga we have felt very comfortable with the destination, the organization, the commitment and going hand in hand with the club and the local authorities. Our goal is to continue looking at neutral options going forward if it makes sense and reason.
What is your opinion of the Bonn project and its presence in the final? Is it an example for others to follow?
Bonn represents our values, they have gained participation through domestic competition and have shown a high level, making it clear that if you play well, you can advance and reach the final. It is a great example and if they win, the money received will have a high impact on their budget.
There will be no Spanish presence in the final, but the important role of the Spanish market and the ACB in the development of the Champions League always stands out.
If I remember correctly, it will be the second time in seven finals that there is no Spanish team in the grand final. This demonstrates the high level of the ACB teams and it should be noted that they had their chance to win both with one last shot. We are looking forward to next season and we know of the interest of the Spanish teams in wanting to continue participating in this competition and measure themselves against the best.
Can you advance the number of participants that Spain will have?
The final number of participants from each country will be clearer in the coming weeks and the board at the end of June taking into account the ranking. We get a lot of interest from teams all over Europe and we have to find a balance between pan-European representation and quality. We have had 18 countries represented in the Regular League and that speaks of our universality.
There are rumors of a possible merger between BCL and Eurocup. What can you comment?
I don’t like to respond to rumors, but I do say that we have an open dialogue with the new Euroleague board of directors, thinking of connecting optimal solutions for the benefit of European club basketball. There are many aspects on the table beyond the BCL-Eurocup. We believe that there is a lot of room for improvement, we have to offer clarity, now there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty, we want to offer added value.
The competition system has been a success, it has been consolidated. Are changes proposed?
We are always transparent in our processes. I am a fervent advocate that formats should not change overnight, this brings uncertainty. All processes take time. Next season we will complete a three-year cycle, then it will be time to reflect with our clubs. There is no perfect format.
What vision do you have in a few years of the European basketball scene?
We have to have a common vision, we need more clarity, a better structure, to be able to better inform our fans, we need to help the national leagues and national teams grow… European basketball is not a small select group of clubs, we are many elements… We need to determine the number of club competitions that make sense, now we have four; we have many representatives of the same league playing in Europe being closer to relegation than to the playoffs, teams that go up from the second division to European competition… We need to respect the pyramid of sport. We need to make sure that the model we bring to the table can help business growth and development. One of our key missions should be to bring new investment opportunities and for that to happen we have to grow the basketball market of opportunities.