So, here is Part 2 of heinnews’s David Hein talk with FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann at the 2009 EuroBasket Women in Latvia. In the second part, they discussed Euroleague’s pushing for bigger arenas; FIBA’s efforts to increase the number of men’s basketball teams at the Olympics from 12 to 16; and the expectations for the 2009 EuroBasket in Poland.

heinnews: Let’s shift focus now to the Euroleague. Starting in the 2010-11 season, all clubs wanting a long-term license will have to have an arena big enough for 10,000 spectators. What does FIBA think about the decision to require the bigger arenas?
Baumann: We have the luxury of working in what we like. It’s really not even work sometimes. It’s more like a philosophy, and even kind of like a religion. So if you want your religion to expand you need churches. And the best way is to have the best possible churches. The more people you bring into those churches, the better.
Now, is the economy there to finance the venues? And can the cities afford to have the private investors? And will the spectators buy the tickets? I’m not sure if we can have across Europe a unified, standardised ticket price to finance these kinds of buildings.
But you need to start. Every single domestic league has pushed for higher seats in the venues – whether it’s for their own first division or later down the road FIBA or FIBA Europe saying you need 7,500 seats for the Preliminary Round and 15,000 for the final round. I think it has helped the sport. It might take time, but in the end we will get there. We will need those venues to accommodate the events. Because those events are becoming more and more interesting. People who have money will look at ways to invest it and will continue to spend it. So they need content. And what better content is there than live sports? Sport content is the best you can have. Of course, you can go to a movie. But after a week I have seen all the movies out there. I go to a basketball game today and tomorrow it’s not the same game. So, sports content will still drive a lot of people in what they do in their free time. And therefore, the better the venues, the better it is for the sport.
Now I think we will not seen too many only basketball venues. They will be more multi-functional. There will be everything. Concerts, etc. But it’s actually a safe investment for the city or whoever is doing it.

heinnews: At the press conference at EuroBasket Women, you said that basketball has been a very good citizen to the Olympics since 1992 when you added the professional players, and that basketball has not asked for much since then. Now FIBA is pushing for the increase from 12 to 16 men’s teams at the Olympics. What do you think the chances are that men’s basketball gets the increase in teams?
Baumann: It’s very difficult. We are obviously lobbying hard. But it’s difficult. You some times have to put yourself in the shoes of the others. It’s very easy for us to say we need four more teams. We deserve it. We have done our duties and now it’s time to be rewarded.
Yes, but at the same time we have to consider that the Olympic Games is much bigger than us. It’s much bigger than just basketball. Of course we have been an extraordinary part of the success of the Olympic Games. But we also take a share of the money out of it. So we get something in return. We get exposure. We then earn on the back of that exposure as we can sign a deal with a sponsor. So the Olympics already do bring something to us. To be honest, it’s not just a one-way street where we bring the best and that’s it.
From their perspective there’s the problem that handball wants more, that volleyball wants more, that swimming wants more disciplines. They can’t figure out how to block the quotas for athletics because the qualifications make sure that they always go beyond the quotas.
And there is a very precise limit where there are simply no more beds in the Olympic Village. And we go to London, knowing there are restrictions economically and there is a small Olympic Village planned. So there may be problems anyhow.
We may be only asking for 48 players. But that is an issue as well.
And the biggest issue is why basketball and not others. That’s always very hard psychologically to then go to the other presidents for the federations and say “We’re gonna go to basketball and tough luck for you.”
I was elected a member of the IOC, which already created an issue – why did they select someone from basketball and not others.
So, anyway, we are hopeful, but I think the IOC needs to change their minds on these quotas on athletes. That doesn’t work. They have to review the quota depending on the individual sport and how much it actually brings to the Olympic Games. And therefore they will have to make a judgment call on each of the 26 sports. But that is going to take a bit of time.

heinnews: Looking back to 2007, there was arguably one of the best EuroBasket Men tournaments in history. The 2009 EuroBasket hosts are Poland, where basketball does not have a long tradition of hosting events. And then you have Lithuania waiting to host in 2013. Without making this sound negative, what are your expectations of EuroBasket 2009 in September?
Baumann: The most important thing from our position is that we have the best possible competition. We want the game to be so attractive that you are just amazed, or blown out of your shoes about what you’re watching on the court – like if we saw U.S.A.-Spain every day. That’s really what’s important. Everything else will be around okay. There will be some, this is a young local organising committee, probably a little inexperienced for an organising committee with a lot of good will. We will be happy to have a European champion. People will be blaming referees and these kinds of things will come up. But certainly they won’t be thinking about if the seats were okay, if the venues were fine, whether the hospitality was okay.
Our partners will have a different view on that, and it may be a little more challenging for that point of view. But you cannot always be in Spain. You cannot always be in Italy. You cannot always be in a very professional Scandinavian place like here (Latvia), where everything works out.
No, you also have to bring your message – like a Messiah – to everybody. In a number of areas, it’s quite correct to bring the juwel crown to a country which is on the brink of coming to that next level and puts it at the same level as the others.

heinnews: Looking ahead to Poland 2009, how do you think will win it?

Baumann: A winner? That’s difficult. I think we have the usual suspects who we have seen over the past couple of years being in the top two, three, four. There are Spain and Greece. Maybe we can have a surprise from out of the qualifiers if one team manages to get through and arrive as a team. But that’s difficult. I just hope to see excellent basketball. I want to see it thrilling up to the last game. I want to be shaking like how I was in the final two years ago in Spain. As long as we get that kind of chill, I’m more than happy.

Go Here for Part 1 of the Interview



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