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David Pick | Nr. 59

Was steckt hinter den Expansionsplänen der EuroLeague | David Pick über die Vorbereitungen, einen 19. EuroLeague-Klub aus den Vereinigten Arabischen Emiraten Aufzunehmen.

The EuroLeague brass are entertaining the addition of a 19th club into the competition. No, it’s not the NBA, but close enough. EuroLeague shareholders and executives recently met in Dubai with local moguls to discuss the expansion of the 2nd best league in the world, into a region with little sports at all. The objective was clear: UAE wants a basketball club on the highest level, and they want one NOW.

Here’s a little BIG Magazine exclusive: Before orchestrating an official EuroLeague meeting, Dubai tycoons were in advanced talks to execute a collaboration with the VTB-League, forming a local team in Dubai with a minimum of six Russian players on the roster. “The EuroLeague idea has been in the works, but the initial thought was to form a club in Dubai and join the VTB League”, said a Russian source with knowledge of the dialogue. “Many Russians are living in Dubai, and it made a lot of sense both culturally and financially for everyone, including the VTB-League. However, it all stopped because of the war between Russia and the Ukraine, so the expansion target became the EuroLeague and/or EuroCup.”

The presentation was well put. Lavishing and extravagant hospitality was catered to the EuroLeague decision makers in Dubai. Even CSKA Moscow’s Boss Andrei Vatutin and Vice President of Basketball Operations Natalia Furaeva were present in the UAE despite not being members of the actual league. The magnitude of the exploratory meeting was strongly felt as Maccabi Tel Aviv sent not one, but THREE reps including David Federman, Danny Federman and CEO Shimon Mizrahi.

This wasn’t the first engagement between UAE representatives with the EuroLeague. Ex-EuroLeague CEO Jordi Bertomeu hosted leaders of the operation in Barcelona, Spain; before traveling and touring across Europe to experience and learn how professional clubs operate. The objective is clear. Dubai’s vision of bringing one of the wealthiest countries in the world to one of the wealthiest markets in Europe. This isn’t a one-time wild card deal. UAE wants a guaranteed minimum 5-year commitment to the EuroLeague; a promise to host multiple Final Four events, and sponsoring rights that could lead to the termination of the partnership with Turkish Airlines.

“The UAE market isn’t occupied. The NBA recently played in Abu Dhabi and plans to return with more games between NBA clubs. The UAE is hungry for sports, the arenas are NBA standards and the execution and planning of events are at the highest levels. Cultural events are sold out, but sporting events are lacking. The idea of testing the waters with the EuroLeague or EuroCup Final Four in Dubai or Abu Dhabi has been discussed”, a source present in the Dubai-EuroLeague meeting told BIG Magazine. Former EuroLeague player Darryl Middleton, who served as an assistant coach at CSKA Moscow since 2014, has bolted to Dubai, joining a Youth Development Academy, coaching no less than five teams. The skills and talent level are low, but the investment opportunities are sky-high.

If you peeped the release photo from the meeting in Dubai, you’d probably recognize all the familiar faces. On the left side from top to bottom reps of Anadolu Efes, Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, and Maccabi Tel Aviv. Toward the center newly crowned EuroLeague Commissioner Dejan Bodiroga, Fenerbahce and Milano ambassadors are seen as well. If you look closely, on the bottom right corner, in a gray jacket, posing with his hands crossed, few would recognize Dejan Kamenjasevic. The Serbian coach and entrepreneur has been the one connecting the dots between the Euroleague and Arabians.

In the past, Kamenjasevic worked as a coach and other managerial positions for EuroLeague clubs. He’s since opened a basketball academy in Dubai called “PSSA” with over 500 children enrolled. Kamenjasevic has been traveling across Europe, meeting with clubs, making strides toward formalizing one of the more incredible and exciting collaborations European basketball has ever witnessed. Stay Tuned.

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