An the evening his soccer team in Kiel left the cup, Herbert Hainer, the president of FC Bayern, was sitting in a hall in Munich and watching a basketball game. By the time the last quarter started, he had slid almost to the edge of his seat. He clenched his right fist when his players tossed the ball through the ring and repeated it when the Zenit St. Petersburg players missed the ring.
The basketball team in his club has grown dear to Hainer. Sometimes, when a game is particularly exciting, he then calls Uli Hoeneß, his predecessor. With the FC Bayern basketball department they want what they already have with the football department: a regular seat at the table with Europe’s elite. And this evening they could have come a decisive step closer to their goal. But that had nothing to do with the fact that their Bavarians defeated St. Petersburg in the Euroleague, but with the man with gray hair who was sitting in the stands a few rows behind Herbert Hainer.
On the 19th match day of the Euroleague, the man in Munich who is responsible for them showed up: Jordi Bertomeu, 62 years old, Spaniard. As CEO and President he heads Euroleague Basketball, a private company that organizes the two best club competitions on the continent: the Eurocup and the Euroleague, which is considered the second best basketball league in the world, behind the North American NBA. Before the match between Munich and St. Petersburg, Bertomeu made an appointment with Hainer and the President of the Euroleague offered the President of FC Bayern something that could significantly shape the future of both organizations: a season ticket for his competition.
If you want to understand the offer and its consequences, you should know how the Euroleague works. It selects its participants differently than the European football association Uefa for the Champions League, where the performance in the national league is usually decisive for a starting place. In the Euroleague, on the other hand, eleven of the 18 clubs that are allowed to play year after year are automatically placed: FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, Panathinaikos Athens, Olympiakos Piraeus, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Fenerbahce Istanbul, Zalgiris Kaunas, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Olimpia Armani Milan, CSKA Moscow. They don’t have to qualify because they own the league, at least in part.
“Germany is very important to us as a market”
As so-called A license holders, they have bought their way into the competition in which they play and, season after season, invite different teams to compete with them and market them. In the future, as Jordi Bertomeu said in a press round before the match in Munich, he hopes that only clubs that are co-owners will play in the Euroleague. Bertomeu has already found buyers in Spain, Greece, Turkey, Lithuania, Israel, Italy and Russia. But he also says: “As a market, Germany is very important to us.” And with that about his offer.