Despite Low Attendance For Final Four In London, Euroleague Seeks U.K. Expansion
Euroleague CEO Jordi Bertoméu admitted that ticket sales for last weekend's Euroleague Final Four in London were not up to par with previous years, according to Israel Íñiguez of EL CONFIDENCIAL. The choice of London as the site "did not seem the most logical, taking into account the lack of basketball tradition that exists in the U.K." The site of the event, O2 Arena, seats up to 20,000 fans, but the attendance for the first game was "no more than 14,000." Bertoméu said, "Perhaps we have not gone with the same speed as other years in ticket sales. If we add to this the economic difficulties for some countries to obtain a visa, the current economic circumstances and the fact that London is not the cheapest city in Europe, it is clear the situation has not been simple." However, "Bertoméu does not at all regret choosing London as the site." Bertoméu: "For us, the U.K. is part of our 'target.' We need the ambition to have all countries having a presence in the Euroleague. It is not just a promotion or a slogan, it is pure reality" (EL CONFIDENCIAL, 5/12).
SEEKING LONDON EXPANSION: REUTERS' Patrick Graham noted Euroleague officials said that Europe's top basketball competition "hopes to expand to include a British team within as little as three years." Basketball's profile in the U.K. has risen, helped by investment ahead of the Olympics last year, "but it has never taken off as a major professional sport, overshadowed by the British love of football, rugby, cricket or golf." Euroleague Brand & Communications Manager Alex Ferrer said, "It's one of the main reasons we're here this weekend. The sooner we have a team here the better. Participation rates in the U.K. are not bad. There's no reason why it shouldn't happen. It's a long process but three years is doable." Team GB "gave a creditable account of themselves at the Olympic tournament in August," beating China and pushing eventual Silver Medalists Spain to the wire in the group stages. But the U.K. game "suffered a hammer blow in December when UK Sport decided to stop funding the game's development" after it spent £8.6M ($13.2M) on the sport in the lead-up to the Olympics (REUTERS, 5/11).