Former Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness urged basketball Germany to increase the prestige of the German Cup Final Four weekend as part of a roundtable discussion about the state of the sport in Germany.
Hoeness, who was president of Germany’s biggest sports club from 2009-2014, said the heads of German basketball should do more to make the German Cup Final Four the spectacle on the German sports landscape for that weekend.
“We need to turn it into a traditional event like we did with the cup in football. We decided to play the game in Berlin and make it a stand-alone property. There is no other football played on that day. It’s a football party,” Hoeness said on the Telekom Basketball Talk roundtable discussion.
Hoeness could not understand how basketball leaders would plan the basketball cup weekend in Munich on same weekend that Bayern Munich’s football team was playing a home game.
Hoeness urged that the cup weekend should be scheduled during a football national team break to give the event priority on television and show the games in prime time on Saturday and Sunday.
“Then you’d have one weekend out of the 52 where the people are forced to watch basketball. That would be an important factor where you could push basketball.” – Uli Hoeness
“It would be a chance to push all of the other sports out of the way and focus on the sport in all media and online. You can’t pay enough money for that,” said Hoeness on the debate, which called together to discuss where German basketball is, what it wants to achieve and how it can get there.
BBL league president Alexander Reil said such a plan would be difficult to implement because of the basketball international calendar. The German Cup, Reil said, took place on that weekend because it’s the only weekend available on the European calendar.
Hoeness’s response was: “It doesn’t work doesn’t work. If an economically-strong federation like the DBB (German Basketball Federation) shows its willingness than I’m sure there’s a way.”
German DBB federation president Ingo Weiss seemed to like the idea and said: “If we really want that, then we can do that. FIBA wants to support Germany. You can see that in every way. Look at the (FIBA Basketball) Champions League.”
“FIBA says they want to strengthen the domestic competitions. That means we will have our international (club competition) games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. We’re not really that far away. The problem is that Euroleague plays its games on Friday. (Honess’ idea) is excellent. It’s doable. We have to see how it would work.” – Ingo Weiss
The roundtable discussion, which also included Phoenix Hagen head coach Ingo Freyer and German basketball journalist Kai Zimmermann, tackled a number of other major issues.
Another major topic was the necessity of basketball being seen by more eyeballs in Germany.
The panel members were all full of praise for the work done by Telekom in presenting the game on its online platform telekombasketball.de. But reaching a larger audience is crucial if Germany wants to attain its goal of becoming the number one domestic league by 2020.
“We need to talk to the television heads who complain that football dominates over everything but at the same time don’t let other sports have their chance,” Hoeness said. “The (BBL) finals need to a fantastic event. It can’t just be shoved in here or there. If there’s a Game Five then it should be shown at prime time on a station with high viewership numbers. That’s how you can push it step by step.”
The DBB boss Weiss stressed that basketball needs to have a regular slot on German free television, suggesting Sunday night at 6pm.
“Then everybody – also my 86-year-old father – knows that every Sunday night at 6pm I can watch basketball. I need a talk show – like what we’re doing here. Maybe I even need a basketball TV magazine. When I have that, then I reach a bigger audience. We are in a niche.” – Ingo Weiss
Hoeness said basketball Germany needs to gather their forces and work on improving their television situation, especially considering that the existing German football TV contract is soon to expire and some reports have the next deal will be worth 1 billion euros.
“If football gets a billion euros soon then it can’t be that basketball doesn’t get 20-30 million euros. And then it gets distributed evenly. If you get that much then there’s a main sponsor who says I want to be part of this as well. And this is my league,” said Hoeness, mentioning the Barclays Premier League in English football/soccer as an example.
“Everybody needs to get on board. And if all the clubs were to get 1 million then you can invest in the arena or whatever.”
New league minimums
The BBL president Reil said another way to push the league to grow and near the goal of 2020 would be to increase the minimums for BBL clubs, such as increasing the minimum arena capacity from 3,000 to 5,000 spectators.
“Something like that is absolute necessary, even though some (clubs) will fight you because they fear their existence. You have to establish goals, clear goals. And they can also be high,” Reil said.
The president said many thought the league’s requirement of a 3,000-seat arena was unattainable more than a decade ago. But now places like Ulm and Oldenburg have opened new 6,000-seat arenas.
“If you give the clubs a chance and a realistic time frame to get there then there are possibilities. In other words, if we don’t increase the minimums, then none of the communities would be willing to make the investments.”- Alexander Reil
To which Hoeness responded: “Communities don’t do anything without pressure.”
“We need to talk about different, higher standards to develop. Then if we have 18 clubs who fulfill those standards, that’s wonderful,” added Reil.
Spanish club subsidising soon to end?
During all the debate about Germany’s 2020 goal, the Spanish ACB was seen as the gold standard. But Hoeness said things might soon change in Spain.
“I believe the basketball clubs in Spain will not be so supported by football,” he said, referring in particular to Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Hoeness told a story about meeting the presidents of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Champions League and them joking if Hoeness wanted to buy their basketball teams for 1 euro because they are losing so much money on them.
“That’s not the right way. And I am certain that this subsidizing (of basketball teams by football teams) will not work over the long haul. Basketball must develop autonomously.” – Uli Hoeness
Hoeness also addressed a question about Bayern’s basketball team being supported by the football entity.
“Not 1 euro from football,” he said.
Hoeness was also asked about what role he would play in Bayern basketball in the future. He said he will decide later this year if he wants to be a candidate to become the Bayern club president.
“If elected president in November, starting the next day I would push basketball in Bayern,” said Hoeness, who addressed his relationship with Bayern GM Marko Pesic and his father, head coach Svetislav Pesic by saying: “We are on the same wave length.”