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Volume 10 No. 25

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Indian business magnate Vijay Mallya accused some of F1’s biggest teams "of selfishly refusing to ensure the survival of the seven squads in the sport under financial pressure," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. The co-owner and team principal of Force India warned that F1 must "get around the negotiating table fast to prevent the weakest teams going to the wall." Mallya spoke after the Times story claiming that F1 faces a massive $2B escalation in costs over the next seven years. New figures show that Lotus recorded a record £56M ($84M) loss last year, despite driver Kimi Raikkonen finishing third in the World Championship and a fourth-place finish among constructors. Although not named by Mallya, it is thought that "his resentment is directed at Red Bull and Ferrari, who have both consistently refused to accept spending controls." Mallya: “Rather than reducing costs, one or two teams have decided winning at any cost is more important than the sustainability of the sport, so there is no resource restriction that is implemented, quite contrary to the fact that costs are going up. If you only want three or four teams in Formula One running three cars each, you should proceed in the way it is now" (LONDON TIMES, 5/29).

Sports scientists with a history of "inappropriate conduct" would be "frozen out and the injection of supplements banned under stringent new Australian Institute of Sport guidelines released" Tuesday, according to Greg Baum of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Scientists would "have to be appropriately qualified, and their work closely monitored, but club or team doctors would be in ultimate charge of medication." The board and senior management of a sports organization would be required to familiarize themselves "with all aspects of its sports science program." The guidelines say that "'Don't ask, don't tell' is not an acceptable position to adopt.'' All sporting organizations in the country will be urged to adopt them. Those dependent on government funding "will have little choice." The AIS, the biggest employer of sports scientists in the country, will be bound by the guidelines (SMH, 5/29).

Int'l Basketball Federation (FIBA) President Yvan Mainini said that the relationship between the sport's governing body and the NBA will not change after the reign of NBA Commissioner David Stern comes to an end on Feb. 1, and current NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver takes over. Mainini told SBD Global, "We have been fortunate to live an amazing era of growth under the leadership of former FIBA Secretary General (and current FIBA Secretary General Emeritus) Borislav Stankovic and David Stern. That period is now coming to an end, and we look forward to working with the next NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, in the same spirit." Mainini added, "We have already had very positive and constructive discussions with him, and we are all in full agreement that the potential for growth of basketball worldwide is still extremely big. We can measure up to football if we work well together." (Read the full Q&A with FIBA President Yvan Mainini) However, the relationship between FIBA and the NBA has not always been that harmonious. NBA owners in general have been reluctant to let their star players participate at world championships or FIBA's continental tournaments due to the risk of injuries. So it should not have come as a surprise when NBA Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban in October proposed the NBA should do its own World Cup-style tournament. Cuban said, "If done correctly, it can be NBA-owned and operated and have the potential to be just as large as the World Cup of soccer. That is a product, in my opinion, we want to own, not share." The result would be a greater share of revenue for the NBA and its owners. Asked about Cuban's proposal for an NBA-organized World Cup, Mainini said, "Mark Cuban, of all people, has hugely benefited from having international players on his Dallas Mavericks team. They won the NBA Championship in 2011 with a roster that included German superstar Dirk Nowitzki, former U.S. guard Jason Kidd and big man Tyson Chandler as well as Puerto Rico’s J.J. Barea and Serbia’s Peja Stojakovic." He added, "FIBA is in regular contact with the NBA, and we work closely together to ensure that we can have the best FIBA Basketball World Cup possible while also doing everything possible so that the very best players from around the world can shine in the best league and that the clubs’ interests are protected. We have regular discussions with them about the new calendar that will come into effect in 2017."

The Int'l Basketball Federation (FIBA) has renamed its flagship tournament the FIBA Basketball World Cup (previously World Championship), and is going to overhaul the whole event in the years to come. FIBA will move its World Cup out of the shadow of the FIFA World Cup and make the qualification system easier and more visible. FIBA President YVAN MAININI talked with SBD Global about the changes to its World Cup event, NBA Commissioner David Stern's comments relating to the Olympic tournament and basketball's global growth potential.

Q: In 2014, Spain will host FIBA's first Basketball World Cup. Why the name change and what are your expectations for the tournament?
Yvan Mainini: The new name is short and catchy. The term "World Cup" is known by people all over the globe and resonates in different languages: Copa del Mundo, Coppa del Mondo, Coupe du Monde. This new name reflects the prestige that our tournament has as a premier international competition and allows for it to be recognized as what it truly is: one of the biggest global sporting events, along with the FIFA World Cup, the Rugby World Cup and the Cricket World Cup. Our expectations for the tournament are the same as they always are -- we strive to constantly improve and come away saying that this was the best edition of our flagship event to date. That is our goal from every point of view -- level/quality of play, attendance, promotion, venues, etc.

Q: How satisfied are you with the acquisition of sponsorship deals for the competition?
Mainini: The sale of sponsorship packages for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup has been very successful and is almost complete with more than a year to go before the tournament. In a period when people regularly raise concerns about the state of the economy -- especially in Europe -- it is extremely encouraging to be able to count on a great group of companies. In addition, we concluded a very positive broadcast agreement with Mediaset España for the next three years with very strong exposure and commercial value which will benefit our sport. FIBA and the Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) not only rely on their financial contributions, but just as importantly will need their promotional support to make the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup a resounding success worldwide.

Q: How do you try to increase the importance of the World Cup for the average fan?
The promotion for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup has already started and consists of regular activities both in Spain and internationally. We want to make it a build-up over the course of 18 months leading up to the tournament and not only focus on the two weeks of the event itself in September 2014. After 2014, one crucial way to increase the awareness is by moving the FIBA Basketball World Cup out of the shadow of the FIFA World Cup. That will come into play starting in 2017, when we introduce a new system of competition and calendar. The FIBA Basketball World Cup will be moved from 2018 to 2019 and become the main qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Games. Under the current system, national team competitions only take place in the summer and national teams get no visibility in their home countries. There is no easy-to-follow qualification system for the FIBA Basketball World Cup through the five continental zones. The participation of the best players for their respective national teams is often questionable because of too much wear and tear, and this system does not help the national federations. Under the new system, the FIBA Basketball World Cup will move to 2019 and be staged every four years thereafter, avoiding clashes with other major sporting events. It will also see its field increase from 24 to 32 teams (one host nation, five from Africa, seven from the Americas, seven from Asia/Oceania, 12 from Europe). Teams will qualify during an 18-month qualification period with six windows (November, February, June, September, November and February). The main benefits will be:

  • Improved basketball exposure: More than 140 countries playing -- 1,250 regular and meaningful games.
  • New interest for basketball: Regular official national team games in front of their home fans. Player-friendly system with one free summer: Maximizes the chance of having international stars in the flagship FIBA tournaments.
  • Opportunity for new countries and players to emerge through regular official games.
  • All-year regular visibility of the national team, not only in summer time -- creating synergies with club competitions.
  • Improved structure of lead-up to flagship national team tournaments: Clear "Road to" the main FIBA competitions.
  • Enhanced potential for commercial and media partners to be associated with the national teams and the main FIBA competitions.
  • Development of National Federations, giving them own assets, new tools and more resources.
  • Increased media exposure and promotion for national team basketball -- generating benefits across all FIBA Zones.
Q: The EuroBasket is arguably FIBA’s most important continental competition. What are your expectations for the 2013 edition in Slovenia? And how important is the participation of NBA players in regards to ticket, merchandise and sponsorship sales?
Mainini: Let’s be clear in saying that FIBA does not prioritize any continental championship over any other. All 10 of them -- both men’s and women’s championships across all five continental zones -- are vitally important to FIBA. We want top-level competition to take place at each and every one of those events and then to have the very best teams play in our own flagship events, the FIBA Basketball World Cup and the FIBA World Championship for Women. With that being said, the EuroBasket certainly is an event that generates a lot of buzz and has a huge following, not just throughout Europe but far beyond. As a result of that, the expectations are always high from every standpoint -- media coverage, attendance, level of competition, quality of games, etc. Of course the participation of NBA players is always welcomed and encouraged. It’s an added bonus as it means that teams are at full strength and feature their very best players. However, the EuroBasket -- more particularly FIBA Europe Properties -- doesn’t depend on this to boost the sales of tickets and obtain merchandise and sponsorship.

Q: NBA Commissioner David Stern made headlines last year when he called for an age limit of 23 for the Olympic basketball competition. What’s FIBA’s stance on this proposal?
Mainini: It’s important to understand the more general context within which that proposal was made. Basketball has grown exponentially since the 1992 Barcelona Games with, of course, the help of the NBA as well as other national and international leagues but also through the hard work of the National Federations. The sport has grown to the point where it truly is global. In order to keep that growth going and in order to make the most of it, we need to find ways of raising the profile of the leading international basketball tournaments -- namely the FIBA Basketball World Cup and the Olympic Basketball Tournament -- to new levels, as basketball has grown very strongly worldwide since. As part of that, FIBA and all stakeholders of the game are looking to find the best answer to the question: "How do we deal with the next 20 years?" David Stern’s suggestion of having U23 players is part of this general discussion. At FIBA, we believe that setting an age limit takes away the opportunity of a lifetime for players all over the world -- the honor and chance of playing at the Olympics. Take, for example, Tony Parker. He helped France qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2000 with a second-place at EuroBasket 2011. He then went to London and played in his first Olympics last summer at the age of 30. Had there been an age limit, he would have been denied the right to accomplish something he’s long said was a personal goal of his. There are countless examples of players in similar situations: Kobe Bryant represented the U.S. at the Olympics for the first time in 2008 and like Parker was 30 at that time.

Q: Do you think the London Games were the last to include NBA stars in the Olympic basketball tournament?
Mainini: No, I don’t believe so because players clearly want to play at the Olympics. But certainly there are a variety of issues around the tournament, especially from an NBA perspective. There’s the wear and tear on the players, the fact of having to be at the Games for 19 days, plus the it's pretty long. Therefore, there's an issue about the length of the tournament. That is why, on Feb. 1, FIBA submitted a bid to have the Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament consist of 16 teams at the 2016 Rio Olympics. This is being examined by the IOC and a decision is expected when the IOC's Executive Board meets in Moscow this August.

Q: Where do you see the biggest market growth for basketball around the world? Are arenas in Asia, India and even Europe suitable to support the sport’s growth?
Mainini: We feel that basketball is in a very privileged position because it truly is a sport that is played and watched in just about every corner of the world. That being said, our key geographic targets for economic growth are represented by the emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and Africa. For example, we know that the interest in basketball is particularly strong in a country like China, where it is the No. 1-ranked sport. There are always opportunities to explore and maximize that potential.

India's Sports Ministry "is not satisfied" with the first draft of the proposed law to curb spot-fixing and other corrupt practices in sports and intends to carry out "extensive modification" to the contents of the draft, according to the PTI. Sports Secretary P.K. Deb said, "We have received the draft today. But the proposed law needs extensive modification. After making all the changes, we will be sending it back to the law ministry tomorrow." The copy of the draft law, after being overseen by Law Minister Kapil Sibal, "was sent to the Sports Ministry by the legislative department for consultations with the experts -- sports administrators and former players" (PTI, 5/28). In London, James Crabtree wrote the Indian Premier League "wrapped up its annual cricketing fiesta on Sunday." While the sport is over, "the circus rolls on," by way of a match-fixing imbroglio that is "doing yet more damage to a game once famed for its gentlemanly ethics -- or the 'spirit of the game,' as misty-eyed cricketing types put it." This battle for the IPL’s future is "becoming ever more compelling." The country’s most powerful cricket tycoon, N. Srinivasan, "continues to hang on to his job" as the head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Srinivasan "is a fascinating figure: part cricket don, part business mogul and also arguably the most powerful man in the sport worldwide, largely because of the financial heft of the IPL." For all this influence, however, he "now faces an enemy of greater force: India’s hyperventilating media, and especially the country’s cable news channels, who have covered the police investigation with great gusto, if not always scrupulous accuracy." Srinivasan is "not accused of wrongdoing in the scandal." Even so, over the weekend it looked as if "a heady mixture of public outrage and media ballyhoo would force him to take responsibility" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5/27).

CALLING FOR RESIGNATION: The PTI reported Indian National Congress member Jyotiraditya Scindia called for Srinivasan's resgination as BCCI president. Scindia: "From my point of view, not for a second am I assuming that anybody is guilty. Having said that, in the interest of propriety and in interest of the game at this point of time when there is a question mark surrounding an individual, surrounding the team (CSK) and surrounding the manager of that team who happens to be a family member, I believe in all sense of the word propriety that Mr. Srinivasan must step aside" (PTI, 5/28). The PTI also reported in "a veiled attack" on BCCI VP Arun Jaitley, cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad said people in the board are not going after Srinivasan because “somebody wants to be the next president” of the high-profile sports body. Azad: "They are acting like Gandhiji’s three monkeys. They all are involved. You scratch my back I’ll scratch yours. Such is the current scenario" (PTI, 5/28). The PTI also reported Union Minister for New & Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah "favoured legalising betting in sports in India." He lent "unqualified support" to Srinivasan. Abdullah: "Worldwide it is there. You are betting in Dubai, you are betting in England, in America, why not in India." When a journalist cited the swelling demand for Srinivasan's ousting, Abdullah said, "Why should he [Mr. Srinivasan] resign?" The questioner said Srinivasan’s son-in-law "was arrested for his alleged involvement in IPL fixing scandal." Abdullah: "How does it matter? If my son-in-law is involved, it does not mean I have to step down. Let the investigation get over. If it comes out in probe that Mr. Srinivasan is responsible, he will go. He is an honourable man" (PTI, 5/28).

MEDIA BLACKOUT: The PTI also reported India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni "maintained a stoic silence on the spot-fixing scandal." On expected lines, BCCI "issued a diktat that the journalists attending the press conference won't be allowed to ask questions on the spot-fixing scandal." When Dhoni was asked why has he not responded as the leader of the Indian cricket team, the media manager Dr. R.N. Baba "stopped the scribe from probing the skipper further, asking him to stick to questions pertaining to Champions Trophy" (PTI, 5/28).

CRIMINAL MATTERS: The PTI reported arrested cricketers S. Sreesanth and Ajit Chandila "besides two bookies were on Tuesday remanded in judicial custody" until June 4 by a Delhi court which "rejected the investigators' plea for two more days of custodial interrogation of the Indian pacer" in connection with the case (PTI, 5/28). The PTI also reported a recent IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore "may also come under the scanner of Delhi Police for 'match-fixing'" after the interrogation of Chandila and bookies who have been arrested on charges of spot-fixing (PTI, 5/28).