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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mediterranean League - fact or fiction?

It could be closer than we think..


The rumors started last season but nowadays they keep springing up from all directions in Greece but as of yet there is nothing concrete to report. The idea is very old but the execution needed some infrastructure and most of all, some money.

Let's face it, the Greek league has seen better days. It could be classed as an example to avoid when it comes to organisation and meritocracy.

It becomes hard to find a team that doesn't owe money to players, or in taxes to the state. Some teams shouldn't even be playing in the A1 league because they can't collect all the necessary certificates that guarantee the club's financial wellbeing and stability. The president of the league becomes more of a decoration and his sole purpose at the moment is (in theory) to try and find a good television broadcast rights contract for the teams of the league. So currently we've got teams that cannot even afford hot water to have a shower after practice or teams that have changed more players and coaches than they currently have on their roster. Fortunately some other teams seem to be adapting to the

The league solely exists at the moment for the finals between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos and the same goes for the Greek Cup where (conveniently) the 2 Greek powerhouses never seem to meet before the final. This situation has the support of a body of sports journalists, who make their living out of the rivalry between the reds and the greens and also by the players themselves who can't stand up to their rich bosses. Hence one might be thinking what's the purpose of the Greek league? Let's create a new league where Olympiakos and Panathinaikos can play against more powerful opponents and one aging executive can come out as the Messiah who gave new impetus to a decomposing league.

So this is the plan.. in theory always. 3 teams from Greece, 3 from Turkey, 2 teams from Israel, the champion of Serbia, the champion of Cyprus, possibly Lukoil Akademik and last but not least one team from.. Qatar. This is not final and the specs of the league might change until the last moment. One might be thinking.. Qatar..? what the..? the rumors are that the team from Qatar will actually belong to the sponsors of the league. Hence they will provide the funds to organise the league and they will find other sponsors as well to make sure there are adequate funds to run a professional league smoothly.

The premise here is that the teams that will participate in this league will not be playing in the regular season in their corresponding countries but they would return in their local league only for the play-offs. This is the model of the Adriatic League and the purpose of it is that these teams will not be participating in a league that doesn't offer any substantial challenge. That might seem like making the league more challenging for the remaining teams but from a moral point of view it's exposing the current degradation of the league.

A Mediterranean league without teams from Italy or Spain? That sounds strange to me too but they just might be content playing for the Eurocup. For example this season we've had Gran Canaria, Estudiantes, Cajasol, Cantu, Benetton Treviso, Caserta. Why would they want to leave a league as organised and glamorous like the ACB or the LegaA1?

On the other hand, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos are gagging to leave the A1. The same goes for Fenerbahce and Efes Pilsen,  Maccabi Tel Aviv etc. The idea is that the teams picked from each country will be chosen according to their final position at the end of the play-offs. Also that the funding from the Mediterranean League itself will be significantly larger than that from Uleb leagues. This gives certain teams a motive in Greece to gain the 3rd place as it would secure their finances. The same goes for Turkey.

Chances are that the scheme will be announced some time before the end of this season and it will outline how the teams will be chosen and also the details of the league's layout. So this will be the "pilot-season" of a league that will aim to become one of the most popular leagues in Europe and rival the Euroleague, or fail miserably..


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