The Israel WINNER Basketball League suspended the 2019/20 campaign indefinitely as of Monday evening due to the Coronavirus with no date set for its return to action. The league office issued a statement to explain their decision to not put a date as to when the league would go back to regular operations.
The league’s decision to not end the season or set a date of return would allow the foreign players a chance to go home to be with their families during this challenging time throughout the world. In addition, there are many financial issues that will need to be solved with the league not playing any games. That includes revenue streams from the television contract, sponsorships and ticket sales while players’ contracted salaries would also need to be paid out.
The player compensation also falls into a number of categories because there are both Israeli and import players with domestic players able to receive various benefits that foreigners don’t including furlough while receiving unemployment insurance. That wouldn’t play a factor for the foreigners as they can’t take advantage of that option.
Some leagues including Belgium have decided to end their season early leaving many players in the lurch and not being compensated for the duration of their contract or certain deals being worked out on an individual basis. Other leagues have set re-evaluation dates like in Spain where the ACB suspended operations until at least April 24th with the hope that they would be able to continue the campaign sooner rather than later. The down side for those players in Spain is that a team like Barcelona has not allowed their foreigners to leave the country and are stuck frozen in place for the time being.
Italy has set a date of April 3rd but it’s very hard to believe that the situation will be much better by then that the league could continue. Milan players are still in Italy and are receiving their salaries.
Another difficulty in making a decision on a domestic league level is that the European leagues are still in play. The Euroleague which features Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv has stated that they won’t begin play again before April 11th and once again this seems to be a very optimistic date as Lithuanian powerhouse Zalgiris’s league ended, they released their players to head home but are still competing within the continent. The same is also true for ASVEL Villeurbanne in France.
Hapoel Jerusalem features in the FIBA’s Basketball Champions League and they haven’t set any date for a potential return to play leaving those teams also hanging in the air. The BCL also has issues of their own due to the fact that only six other eight round of 16 playoffs series concluded with two best of three tilts are tied at 1-1.
There’s plenty of challenges facing not only the Israeli league but all of the domestic leagues across Europe as well as the continental competitions. Many teams won’t be able to weather this financial storm and may go bankrupt, go down a division or two and cease operations. Local governments will be stretched to the maximum and financial backing of sports will not be one the list of priorities.
As time goes by, the issues will begin to become clearer and solutions will be found. However, was the WINNER League’s decision to not make a decision the correct one and will basketball life around Europe go back to normal? During uncertain and trying times that remains to be seen.