The German Beko BBL league is moving even quicker than expected towards its long-term goal of becoming the top domestic league in Europe by 2020 with a continued increase in attendance, at least an 11 percent increase in total club budgets within the first half of this season, more general interest in the league and more playing time for German players.
There are also considerations to change the Top Four German Cup competition while the league is also discussing a new television deal.
The BBL published a new mission statement in May 2011 with the ultimate goal of overcoming the Spanish ACB as the number one domestic league in Europe by 2020. The long-term goal is based on improvements in attendance figures, television ratings and revenues and better sporting results among the clubs.
“We are approaching this goal quicker than even we had planned ourselves,” Pommer told a media chat at the Beko BBL All-Star Game in Ludwigsburg on Saturday.
Pommer said the BBL is even with France’s ProA as the top domestic league behind the ACB.
“But the ACB are clearly way ahead of us. We have to say that loud and clear,” said Pommer.
“They have much higher television revenues, much higher attendance figures, the sporting success is much more attractive than ours. And there are teams with much larger budgets than ours. There is still a long road. But we are only at the beginning of 2012.”
And it is definitely safe to say that basketball in Germany is booming. The Beko BBL has achieved a new attendance record 10 years in a row, eclipsing the 4,000 mark for the first time in 2010-11.
That mark will be obliterated in 2011-12 as the BBL lost the two teams with the lowest attendance figures from the 2010-11 season with MBC and Gloria Giants Duesseldorf being relegated. Joining the league in their places have been Bayern Munich with a capacity of 6,700 in the new Audi Dome and s. Oliver Wurzburg and their lengthy streak of sell-outs with 3,140 fans per game. In addition, ratiopharm ulm moved into a new 6,000 seat arena this season.
The average attendance for the 2011-12 season is already 4,246 after 17 game days – a 15 percent increase over the average from the same point last season – with a capacity of 83 percent.
When asked by heinnews in October 2011 if it would be possible to average 5,000 spectators this season, Pommer said: “No that would be too much. … That is another goal. But a 20 percent increase would be too ambitious.”
When asked in Ludwigsburg what he expects for a final average after the playoffs for this season, Pommer said: “I could imagine 4,400. But it depends on a lot of things, for example if Alba Berlin, Bamberg and Bayern all exit in the first rond. Then we wouldn’t reach that.”
The presence of promoted side Bayern Munich has not only helped the BBL’s average attendance figure. The prominent club from southern Germany has helped the league’s overall financial wellbeing as well.
Pommer said the 18 BBL clubs went into the current season with a total budget of 61 million euro. The league will be receiving the clubs’ financial reports at the end of January and Pommer assumes the total budget will be between 68 and 69 million euro – an increase of at least 11 percent.
“This is actual money in the system. That is remarkable when you consider that we are still in a difficult financial time and what you see other European leagues are dealing with,” said Pommer.
And the interest of other cities on seeing Bayern come to town – and root against them – is one of the driving factors to the financial increase.
Pommer also cited a study by the market research company Sport und Markt that determined there is an increase of 15 percent in “general interest” in the league.
“If 15 percent more people say the Beko BBL is interesting, that is a significant figure,” said Pommer.
Beko BBL games on the German channel sport1 have drawn an average television audience of 120,000. Another 25,000 people in average are watching the games online. In addition, the Beko BBL league has nearly 50,000 fans on facebook and nearly 3,000 are following Beko BBL on twitter.
“This is a clear sign that the interest is there. And all that makes me optimistic about our goal of becoming the number one national league in Europe by 2020,” said Pommer.
The Euroleague has been impressed with the BBL’s progress over the past few years.
“The BBL has been investing heavily in the past years to consolidate the sport of basketball in Germany. It is backed by some great professionals and a consistent successful marketing scheme that provides some very positive results,” said Euroleague president and CEO Jordi Bertomeu in an interview published by the BBL.
“It is clear that the BBL on that level has many learnings and experiences to offer as a guide to some of Europe’s national leagues. As a league, the BBL has been able to consolidate the brand in its market and is slowly increasing its focus on increasing its sporting level on the European plain. This is going to be a fundamental part of the growth of the sport of basketball in the German market.”
Bertomeu also called the BBL “an example in Europe” for its economic discipline and for establishing the right political framework to keep clubs’ budgets stable with low or no debt, which is fundamental right now.
“The BBL has been committed to the project for the past years, establishing the right commercial and legal framework to make the sport grow. However, the league is committed to not only making basketball grow in its home market but has been a very close partner on the European front. Management from the BBL has been very close in some of the decision that have been made in Europe.”
The BBL has also worked hard in improving possibilities for German players, with the goal of giving the league a more German face while also improving the level of Germans to help improve the German national team in the long run.
The BBL has set the goal of having Germans playing 30 percent of the total minutes by the end of the 2012-13 season. The percentage at the end of last season was 22.39 and it has improved to 23.85 percent through the first 17 games days in 2011-12.
That figure could very well increase next season as German clubs will be required to have six Germans on a 12-player roster.
Pommer also said the league is considering changes to the Top Four German Cup competition, adding more teams to the qualifying for the final four tournament or even making it an eight-team event. The model for the BBL is the Spanish Copa del Rey, which is an eight team tournament which Pommer said is like a holiday attraction for Spanish basketball fans.
“We want to make it an event that the fans definitely mark down in their calendars and buy tickets for regardless if their own team is there. That’s how it is in Spain. I wish it would be like that here. But I think we are still quite far away from that. We need more patience,” said Pommer.
The league is also beginning talks regarding its television contract starting the 2012-13 season as the BBL’s three-year deal with sport1 runs out at the end of this season.
“We are in talks with other potential television partners. We have already completed the first round of exploratory talks,” said Pommer, listing Sky, Eurosport, sport1 and Telekom as parties with whom the BBL has already began initial talks.
“At the moment a number of these stations are focused on the bidding for the football Bundesliga and of course we will be impacted by that decision.”
While the BBL waits patiently to figure out its television situation for next season and beyond, German basketball fans can be satisfied with the strong state of the league. And the Spanish ACB must slowly but surely start looking over its shoulder.