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Volume 6 No. 213

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Racing New South Wales CEO Peter V’landys "would not be fazed" by the fact someone had already been offered and rejected the job as Australian Rugby League Commission CEO if he was interested in the role, according to Greg Prichard of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The ARLC is "taking a breath" after Australian Football League COO Gillon McLachlan refused the job earlier this week. V’landys has refused to comment on speculation he was in the running for the ARLC job, but he "remains on the league’s shortlist of contenders." A source said, ‘‘That sort of thing happens all the time in business, people not being the first choice, but still accepting the job. It’s about whether you want the job and whether you think you would be good at it, and the person who takes the job often works out to be the better choice in the end anyway’’ (SMH, 9/6). In Sydney, Roy Masters opined that the ARLC "should pursue the rival code's No. 1 man," AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou, when he becomes available. Masters wrote, the ARL "needs a dictator, and Demetriou has proven he can control AFL clubs, their players' association and extract superior deals from stadiums and broadcasters. McLachlan shared many of Demetriou's traits but not his take-no-prisoners approach" (SMH, 9/4).

Germany's top-flight basketball league, the Beko Basketball Bundesliga (Beko-BBL), is coming off a very successful '11-12 season. It set a new attendance record with more than 1.3 million fans attending the 306 league games. The league acquired a second TV partner in the offseason, and with Bayern Munich has a club that is known around the globe. Beko-BBL CEO Jan Pommer took time to talk with SBD Global Staff Writer HJ Mai about the upcoming season and the future of the league.

The Beko-BBL was able to extend its broadcasting-rights deal with free-to-air TV channel Sport1, and in addition acquired kabel eins as a second free-to-air TV channel. What are your expectations for the new partnership with kabel eins?
Jan Pommer:
First of all, we are very happy that we were able to acquire a second free-to-air TV channel. The circumstance of two TV channels providing live coverage of the Beko BBL is unprecedented and simply proves the appeal of our product. 

Q: The BBL set a new attendance record last season. How do you see the future development in this area, and what does the league do to draw more fans?
We are very confident that this trend will continue due to the league’s exciting and very balanced competition. In addition, there are various new arenas in construction or in planning. EWE Baskets Oldenburg will move into a new 6,000 seat arena in April; Würzburg will get a new state-of-art facility in the near future. We also work closely with the clubs to develop strategies to increase the current capacity utilization of 85%. This includes ticketing and pricing workshops as well as promotion events on game days. As to that we are currently evaluating what fans want and how we can optimize the fan experience.

Q: Football is by far the most popular sport in Germany. The BBL competes with the German Hockey League (DEL) and the German Handball Bundesliga for the second place. How do you see your chances in regards to this, and how can the BBL separate itself from the other two?
Pommer: Although hockey, handball and basketball are competing with one another, the leagues have a very good relationship with each other. Obviously, we keep an eye on the other leagues and take note of what they do. However, we focus on our product and how we can make it better. We have recorded a steady growth due to our forward thinking approach.

Q: Europe’s best basketball league is the Spanish ACB. In your personal opinion, how does the BBL fare in comparison to the ACB? And how do you want to close the gap in regards to quality and economic profitability?
We are closing in on the ACB. In regards to attendance numbers, we are the clear No. 2, and we will continue to close the margin. As to clubs' budgets, Beko BBL teams are on a solid and steady ground. The reason for it is our licensing process, which has become a role model in European basketball. I’m eager to see, if the Spanish clubs will be able to keep spending vast amounts of money.

Q: What are the league’s short-term and long-term goals?
Our long-term goal is to be the best basketball league in Europe by 2020. This is formulated in our guidelines and based on indicators such as budget, attendance numbers, TV coverage and int’l success. In the short term, we simply want to build on our current success. This includes as much success as possible in European club competitions. We certainly have room to improve in this category.

Q: What economic developments do you pay close attention to?
Partnerships and sponsorships gain more and more importance. A sponsorship or partnership has become way more than just another communication tool for sponsors in forms of naming rights or ad space. The partners see themselves as part of the sport. Due to this trend we try to incorporate our partners in our content and work closely with them to find individual solutions. This also includes social media. The direct communication with fans via Facebook and Twitter is drastically increasing and will shape communication behaviors for years to come. The big challenge will be to take advantage of it and make it profitable.

Q: What are, in your personal opinion, the three biggest developments in sports business?
Pommer: The continuous professionalization of sports, the increased importance of sports as a communication tool and the change in social media.

Q: What is the biggest challenge the BBL will face?
Pommer: To continue our chosen path, which we took together with the clubs, through rigorous, consistent and meticulous work, so we will keep growing.

Q: In which area do you see the league’s biggest growth potential?
Pommer: In the area of media rights. The market has changed drastically over the last few years and will continue to do so because the media landscape is in constant change. More players mean more options. Also important is that broadcasting rights are not limited to TV’s any longer. Fans now watch basketball online or on a mobile app. This market has a huge potential, which we have to utilize.

Q: What are your favorite websites and apps?
Pommer: I regularly visit our league-owned websites and, which I both highly recommend. In addition, I consistently use our free app iBBL. I also use the Sport1, Sport Bild and Bild apps to stay updated on the world of sports. Another tremendous app is iliga – hier schlägt das Fußballherz höher (iliga – here beats the football heart higher).

Q: The development of which company/league do you follow very closely and with great interest?
Pommer: The Euroleague and the NBA are two benchmark leagues that we follow with great interest. We also take a look at other basketball leagues in order to avoid their mistakes and locate their areas of success. Naturally, we keep an eye on the development of our naming-rights partner Beko, as well as other companies that have a great deal of influence despite a limited budget. Last but not least, we stay up to date on classic sport sponsors such as Deutsche Telekom AG, adidas, etc.

After last year's influx of highly-paid foreign players in the Chinese Basketball Association, the league "might get a similar salary cap" to that of the NBA's, according to Sun Xiaochen of the CHINA DAILY. Beijing Ducks GM Yuan Chao said, "If we can have a salary restriction in the new season, it will be good for the club's revenue. But we can't rush it and just simply copy the NBA model. We are two totally different leagues." A league official said that a "rough prototype is being discussed" among club owners and a select group of experts, lawyers and analysts. CBA Competition Department Dir Bai Xilin said, "We've been talking about how to make it happen recently, and there is no timeline yet. We will keep the media posted when we work out something practical" (CHINA DAILY, 9/5).

SECOND CHANCE: REUTERS' Alastair Himmer noted that in '09, monthly pay for foreign players was capped at $60,000 and $44,000 for Chinese players, with the exception of national team members. However, "a lack of supervision over implementing the rules and subsequent penalties for those dodging the guidelines doomed the CBA's first attempt at a cap." The Xinjiang Flying Tigers and Zhejiang Golden Bulls paid millions of dollars for NBA players such as Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith respectively in last year's off season. The deals "ended in losses for both clubs, financially and on the court." Bai said that the salary cap was proposed by four owners during a meeting last week "and welcomed by others." Yuan said, "We can't let the rich clubs gather all the good players and make it a negative circle. That's no supposed to happen in a mature, healthy league." Smaller clubs have felt forced to "dig deep to sign foreign players in order to compete" against other CBA teams "and say enough is enough." Bai: "Clubs are the foundation of our league. We have to make sure each of them develops in a healthy fiscal condition" (REUTERS, 9/6).

The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) has "started a probe into alleged irregularities" at sportswear manufacturer Reebok, according to the PTI. Minister of State for Corporate Affairs R.P.N. Singh said that the Ministry has "initiated an investigation" into alleged irregularities at Reebok India. Singh: "On the basis of media reports, this Ministry has ordered investigation into the affairs of Reebok India under section 235 of the Companies Act, 1956 on 29.05.2012, which is being conducted by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office of this Ministry." However, he also stated that the Ministry has not "received any specific complaint regarding fraud" in Reebok India Company (PTI, 9/6).