Basketball shoots itself in the foot

Basketball shoots itself in the foot

The Spanish basketball team travels to Montenegro on Friday in the midst of a disaster. They are setting off on a tricky journey to the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China without 29 players that would ordinarily have been called up. Coach Sergio Scariolo has not been able to select players who ply their trade in the NBA or the EuroLeague, in which five Spanish teams compete. The squad is made up of the 17 players who fall behind those 29 in the pecking order, many of whom are unknown to the general public. The cause of the issue is a clash between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the EuroLeague. Spain are the main victims, and the future will be gloomy if they fail to qualify for the World Cup or the Olympics in 2020, because of the implications for gaining sponsorship.

Sergio Scariolo

FIBA upset the apple cart

Basketball runs to a commonly accepted schedule, in which players join up with their national teams upon conclusion of the club season. Between the end of one season and the start of another there is sufficient time to hold the World Cup, the EuroBasket, or the Olympics, for those who those who qualify by virtue of their performance in previous championships, or through a short qualification phase. The FIBA has broken that status quo by creating a qualification phase that fits within imposed ‘windows’ during the season. Naturally, the NBA has not taken the hint. And the EuroLeague has not allowed the majority players to join up with their national teams.

Real Madrid celebrate winning the EuroLeague in 2015.

EuroLeague the winner from the affair

The FIBA has not used its power with consideration. And that affects Spain more than anyone, as they have more players in the NBA and EuroLeague than any other team. Sporting law allows for a two-year ban for those who do not attend international duty when called up. But this is not generally the done thing, as has been agreed on other occasions in basketball and tennis. So the Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) has opted to not call up the players in question, in order to avoid placing them in a difficult situation with their employers. For the EuroLeague, a group of clubs that view the international game as a nuisance, victory in this skirmish is a positive outcome. It is very difficult to conceive that they will pass up the opportunity to destabilise the FIBA.