Shmuel Frankel, the outgoing chairman of the Israel Basketball Winner League held a special press briefing to look back over his ten years in the position along with the accomplishments, challenges, issues together with the high and lows that he experienced along the way.
In fact, Frankel may have been the chairman for the past decade, he was in fact part and parcel of the Israeli basketball world for close to twenty years which included his time with Sport Palace where he oversaw the expansion of Yad Eliyahu, the renovations to the additional restaurants, concession stands, Maccabi Tel Aviv Hall of Fame and the construction of larger lockerooms.
“I was in Miami and the league asked me to become the chairman ten years ago. We were 7 million NIS budget and moved it to 14 million nis to end the players strike which I inherited when I came into the position. I had so many issues to deal with from the players strike at the start of my time as the chairman, which is something that Avner Koppel the former chairman did not have to deal with it.”
One of the biggest challenges that Frankel faces was when a number of teams looked to leave the league in favor of European competitions, “The four big teams, including Maccabi Tel Aviv, Holon and Jerusalem wanted to break away from the league as there were issues with playing in Europe. Maccabi spoke about two separate teams one for Israel and one for Europe, but after conversations with one of the owners David Federman we were able to end that problem. At some point things were so tense that the fans wanted to even go after me when I attended games at Yad Eliyahu!”
Frankel also had to daal with a second players strike later on in his tenure, “The last strike was about the Russian Rule, the foreign coaches and we couldn’t play with two Israelis on the court and I wanted to make sure that there was enough quality to play. At midnight the player representatives came to my house and we were able to sign a deal in the morning.”
Some of the big accomplishments for Frankel were that the league was able to crown five different champions during his decade in charge and that Nes Ziona was able to win a European title when they captured the FIBA Europe Cup a couple of years ago.
In fact, Frankel pointed out that there are now 9 of the 12 teams playing in a European competition which teams getting a sum of money for that as well.
“The Minhelet budget went from 17 to 40 million NIS and per team it went from 800K to 2.5 million NIS. I have already spoken to the new Sports Minister Miki Zohar who is a basketball person and there is hope that he will continue to build new facilities and support the game throughout the country.”
Israel was very active during the Corona Virus pandemic which was thanks to the now CEO of the league Shlomi Peri when he was able to keep the players going by signing all of the teams up for the Balkan League.
“We were the only league that finished the the competition properly during Corona and then by going to the Balkan League the teams were able to keep playing which was an incredible move by Shlomi Peri. The basketball and soccer leagues were able to get 110 million NIS from the government to help the teams during the Corona crisis with huge thanks to Hili Troper for his help.”
Another move which has come into play was moving the State Cup competition to how it is in with 8 teams from the top division and pearls they will also have an opportunity to play in a number of new arenas in the near future.
“New arenas are so important to growing the game and there will be two new facilities in Eilat and Herzliya. Next year there will be a chance to add two more arenas as well with the hope one will be for Nes Ziona and the other in the Galilee.”
“The league is available throughout the world,” Frankel said of the deal that allows for streaming games around the globe. “We were able to sign a new deal as well, but I really want to have more games on as early as possible so that more children will be able to come to the games.”
On the topic of children and expanding the league to be able to reach more people, Frankel instituted a number of programs and activities, “The All Star game is something else and it’s a huge happening which includes all kinds of entertainers, plus the slam dunk, 3-point contest and more.”
“Every team has an official website and app with tickets being available on your mobile telephone. We’ve also added quick highlight packages as well as an OTT service which is very helpful to all those living outside of the country.”
The outgoing chairman also spoke about how the league shouldn’t be looking to expand past the current 12 teams that they have and in fact perhaps contracting would have been an idea as well. However, the Israel Basketball Association is part of the promotion and relegation of teams since they are the ones who manage the Leumit League, which in his mind is not run up to par with what a professional league should look like.
“I don’t think we can go to 13 or 14 teams. I went to Deloitte and we looked at what other leagues in Europe are doing. The larger leagues have close to twenty teams and 2 teams that are promoted/relegated while the smaller leagues similar to ours which have about 10-14 teams there is just one team that is promoted/relegated. I believe that the IBBA should lay off of trying to add more teams and having two teams promoted/relegated and I’m hopeful that there will be a relationship similar to the one in soccer between their league and the Israel Football Association.”
As his parting shot, Frankel wanted to make it crystal clear that he was always looking out for all 12 teams in the league, “I looked at the best for the league and I was able to get through all of the issues that came my way. I had my agenda and I went with that.”