The State of German Basketball Business – June 2020

The previous, initial edition is merely two weeks old, yet a lot has happened in the meantime in German basketball, in this period leading up to the 19/20 season-ending post-Corona tournament of ten teams that is going to start in Munich soon.

(German) Player’s Criticism

One topic that came up in the discussion of my May post was how American import players felt about the news of the continued season. I suppose one could say that a couple of them “voted with their feet”, by not agreeing to an extension if their contracts ended end of May, or dissolving them earlier. Or, voting the other way, switching clubs from one of the seven teams not participating in the tournament, or from a league abroad that already ended, to one of the ten that is. I am yet to hear any critical public statement from an American player that is going to play in the upcoming tournament.

For the German players, this looks quite different, and one can imagine that local player rules have a lot to do with that – there is just so many BBL-level basketball players around with German passports, so they are going to get a job, even if they speak up. For example, Bastian Doreth, who is not going to play in the tournament with Bayreuth, will represent players’ interests in a dialogue with the league, recently gave an interview talking about the necessity of a player’s union, given the current context. Akeem Vargaas from Frankfurt Skyliners gave an interview in the beginning of May, which also had mixed feedback for the league’s plans.

Limited Broadcast TV presence

One of the main objectives of continuing this 2019/20 season was to showcase the sport to people otherwise not interested in basketball. To which extent this will actually succeed is a bit questionable now, because only a meager 6 out of 34 games will be shown on Sport 1, i.e. broadcast television. As usual, all games will be shown via the Magentasports platform, but this is not a good channel to get in touch with new audiences. As in the meantime other sports associations in Germany, like beach volleyball and women’s tennis, for example, have announced their own summer tournament formats, I doubt that as much attention will turn to basketball as the league originally hoped for.

Negative news from Würzburg, Speyer & Gießen

In the previous edition, I already speculated that we had not heard the last regarding teams pulling out of the 2nd and 3rd tier of German basketball, Pro A and Pro B. Sadly but also unsurprisingly, I was right – Würzburg, Dirk’s hometown club, pulled their farm team from Pro B (South Division). Baskets Speyer, another club from the same league, announced that their name sponsor would not continue the cooperation, with consequences still being unclear. Brose’s reduced investment in Bamberg I already talked about previously. One consequence of that is that after 7 years of cooperation, they decided that they will no longer support Baunach as their farm team – which is also in Pro B South.

Meanwhile in the BBL, Gießen has announced several management changes, after hiring Michael Koch, who coached Bonn from 2005 to 2013, and more recently Bayreuth, as managing director on first of March. Philipp Reuner (CFO), Sebastian Jung and Heiko Schelberg (Marketing / Finance), the people running the show over the last few years, are all either out already, or about to leave.

I have the feeling that this will not be the last mayor news we see this offseason, regarding teams pulling out, sponsorship or management changes. Player transfers also have been numerous in the last two weeks, now even reaching the top teams – with, for example, Germany international Ismet Akpinar switching from Besiktas to Bayern, for the duration of the tournament – which is likely excarbating the problems of fans (not) identifying with their team that I talked about previously.

If you are an American interested in playing professionally in Europe, I highly recommend the No Plan B podcast by Rene Weimann and my friend Joe Asberry, a video scout for MAC Sports Management & Consulting and former pro, who played most of his career in Germany, but also played professional ball in Japan and Finland. Here is an interview with him in SLAM, from back in 2015.

If you are a coach looking to learn, I highly recommend the European Basketball Webinar by Thomas Roijakers. I participated in several of the sessions in the beginning of May. Another great option is the International Basketball Coaches Clinic.