ACB League’s management model, under debate – Part I

El modelo de gestión de la Liga ACB, a debate

Johan Cruyff Institute organized a round table with the president of Divina Seguros Joventut, Juanan Morales, the president of MoraBanc Andorra, Gorka Aixàs, and the executive adviser of Baxi Manresa, Marc Bernadich, to analyze and discuss the management model to analyze and discuss the new management model of the ACB League, which takes into account the reality of all the clubs adds

This July, it will be a year since the clubs of the Liga Endesa (Spanish basketball league) decided to make a change of direction and put their future in the hands of one of their own. Antonio Martín became, in a unanimous vote of the 18 clubs of the Spanish basketball league, the first professional former player to accede to the position of president of the ACB League (the Spanish Association of Basketball Clubs) in its 36 years of history. It was a clear request for a change of course aimed at regaining interest in a league that had its peak years in the ‘90s, when basketball was clearly the second most followed sport in Spain, after football.

Spanish basketball has been stuck for too long in a state of instability and loss of strength, as result of the clubs not working together as one and the impact of other competitions such as the NBA or the Euroleague, and of the good work of other sports that have earned themselves a good market share, such as Formula One or tennis.

At a round table organized exclusively for the students of its different academic programs in sport management, sport marketing and sponsorship and football business, Johan Cruyff Institute brought together three representatives of historical clubs of the ACB League. The proposal was to analyze and discuss the current situation of Spanish basketball, what was done well in the past, what has been left aside along the way and where the competition should be headed. In short, how to work on a management model that is compatible with the reality of all the clubs and incorporates the values and identity of all of them so that the ACB League continues to be recognized as the strongest European competition.

Our guests were: Juanan Morales, president of Divina Seguros Joventut; Gorka Aixàs, president of MoraBanc Andorra; and Marc Bernadich, executive adviser to Baxi Manresa.

Definition of the club model

Plantilla de Divina Seguros Joventut

DIVINA SEGUROS JOVENTUT: THE BEST YOUTH ACADEMY IN EUROPE

Joventut de Badalona, which was founded in 1930, is, together with Real Madrid, the only club that has never been relegated since the First Division of Spanish Basketball was founded. It has always played in the highest category, the ACB League, despite being on the verge of disappearing in the 2017-18 season. Among other things, that was the result of an economic situation that in 10 years became desperate, even causing the club to initiate bankruptcy proceedings that cost it a lot to emerge from. As its president, Juanan Morales, explains, “what defines our club is, on the one hand, having always played in the top category of Spanish basketball, but above all having constantly generated talent for basketball, both at the national and global level. Since the club was founded and with the economic ups and downs it has had, one thing that defines Club Joventut Badalona is its commitment to its youth academy and the training of players. We are recognized as having one of the best youth academies, not only in Spain, but in Europe; each generation we produce players with ACB talent. We have generated players of the talent and level of Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez, Raul Lopez and Christian Eyenga, who have played in NBA teams, and practically all the ACB teams have players trained at our academy, which is something that for us is a reason of pride.”

“What defines Club Joventut Badalona is having constantly generated talent for basketball, not only in Spain, but also in Europe” – Juanan Morales

Plantilla Mora Banc Andorra

MORABANC ANDORRA: A NATIONAL TEAM

Basket Andorra joined the ACB League for the first time in 1992 , and remained four seasons in the elite category before being relegated. With an important debt and without resources to get promoted again, the club entered a period of deep reconstruction that helped it to return to the ACB League five seasons ago. In a country of 70,000 inhabitants, MoraBanc Andorra represents a national sport. “We had a good youth academy that allowed us to grow from the amateur categories to reach the ACB League at a time when it was necessary to pay an entry fee of 3 million euros to join the category, provide a promotion and relegation regulation fund, and have a sufficient budget to be minimally competitive in the highest category. Today, with less than 3 million euros it is impossible to stay in the ACB category. To join cost around 8 million euros, just to access the competition, but being in the top category is what gives you the visibility you need to sell your club to sponsors and get the necessary support. We achieved that with important institutional support and the contribution of our main sponsor MoraBanc,” says the club president, Gorka Aixàs.

“Today, with less than 3 million euros it is impossible to stay in the ACB category” – Gorka Aixàs

Plantilla Baxi Manresa

BAXI MANRESA: EFFICIENCY TO ENSURE SURVIVAL

With 3,500 season-ticket holders and an arena with a capacity for 5,000, Baxi Manresa is a modest team. According to its executive director, Marc Bernadich, “Manresa is a small city, with around 70,000 inhabitants. We have few resources and our survival is based on maximum efficiency. We are always the team with the lowest budget in the ACB League and that forces us to make the most of our resources. Our strategy, therefore, is not so much to develop players, as in the case of Joventut, but to give opportunities. Bàsquet Manresa is a combination of three things: having talented players who have not yet exploded onto the scene (bets for the future); having players that have, or have had, talent and are now in their last stage of their sports career; and having fill-in players, who are not so young or talented but who know how to compete.”

“We are always the team with the lowest budget in the ACB League and that forces us to make the most of our resources” – Marc Bernadich

Professionals that basketball needs to generate own resources

Gorka Aixàs: “Content generators. Because if the content is good, you have a space for it to be consumed. To be able to differentiate yourself from other clubs, from the competition in general, good content generation is very important and it has a lot of value for us.

“To be able to differentiate yourself from other clubs, from the competition in general, good content generation has a lot of value for us” – Gorka Aixàs

March Bernadich: “Also a generator of parallel projects. We clubs have our business, which is to win matches and people come to see us, but you can create parallel businesses that also help to complete your budget.”

Juanan Morales: “There is a clear change of business model. A decade ago, we had clear what we were selling: players, for which we got a transfer fee, seats in the arena for fans to come and see us, and advertising space. Brands with the capacity to pay the amounts we ask for don’t argue much about how many times your brand appears on television. That has gone down in history, what they seek is to link their brand with a set of values and a history. Because if they are simply looking to buy advertising exposure there are other cheaper places. What we can give an sponsor so they help us get the money we need to get the business going is history, renown and values.”

“What we can give a sponsor so they help us get the money we need to get the business going is history, renown and values” – Juanan Morales

Where the ACB League is headed

Gorka Aixàs: “A change of leaders is good and healthy. The ACB League had fallen asleep, we needed new air and a new vision. It is not going to change from one year to the next, but it has to be made compatible with the reality of the clubs and it has to be a model that contemplates competing in Europe as an open model and being promoted and relegated, too.”

Juanan Morales: “The ACB is the first organization to disassociate itself from the Federation. It was created in the 1993-94 season, there were many people with acquired vices and synergies that had to be changed, including a lot of inefficiency at the economic level and, after doing an audit, it was seen that there was a need to shake up the house. It is clear that we the clubs want the house to cost us as little as possible so that the distribution we talked about before is the largest possible. We want the president to have the utmost respect from all the clubs and be able to lead us all in the right direction. I think the changes are going in that direction.”

“We want the president to have the utmost respect from all the clubs and be able to lead us in the right direction. I think the changes are going in that direction.” – Juanan Morales

The strategic plan of a basketball club

Gorka Aixàs: “It varies depending on each club. We have a four-year strategic plan. We review it every year and in the middle we see if we have to change it because the realities are also changing.”

Juanan Morales: “This is a peculiar business. We can prepare a strategic plan and we do that, but our economic results depend totally on the sporting results and, in our case, as a training club, they also depend to a great extent on the generations that come through. There are generations that allow you to work for 3-4 years, plan the resources you need to keep them and for them to join the first team without going to other clubs, but if any part of this sporting project fails you have to react very quickly because the competition does not forgive you or wait for you. And for an ACB team, relegation is dramatic because the income difference is really severe, and the costs are not reduced by the same proportion as revenues are reduced.”

Marc Bernadich: “I have been at Manresa for nine years and, in our case, the strategic plan is annual. If the budget needed to be in the ACB is 3 million euros to begin with, every year we see what we have to start with and what we have to generate in order to be there.”

Sale of experiences beyond the match

Marc Bernadich: “What works for us is the mobile connection: WhatsApp lists, content, newsletters, but more focused on companies, not our season-ticket holders. The VIP area has never worked for us, and what works for us is to have agreements with local companies that can give discounts to our fans”

Gorka Aixàs: “What you are selling is basketball and you want people to come and see you at the arena; everything else is accessory. It’s true that you can’t do without it, but in the end what people want is to see you win.”

Juanan Morales: “I think there are two different audiences: the one that watches you on television, that you do not have access to and has little impact, and there what is being sold is ACB product, not so much the work of the club itself but of the competition; and the one that comes to the arena, for whom the experience should be improved as much as possible. The VIP box works well for us, but especially in the case of Club Joventut Badalona, the way to improve the fans’ experience is through the relationship with the team, and the best way I have to do that is to debut young players; Joventut creates an emotional link between what happens on the court and the people who come to see us.”

“The best experience I can offer is debuting young players; Joventut creates an emotional link between what happens on the court and the people who come to see us” – Juanan Morales

The inclusion of women’s basketball

Juanan Morales: “At our basketball school, we have the same number of boys as girls. It is true that the senior women’s team is not at the men’s level, but it is our aim to grow in this area and we are looking at how we can increase the resources for it. Women’s sport is enjoying a boom and there are resources for it, but we go even further: we have men’s, women’s, wheelchair and mentally disabled teams; we represent all basketball, from five-year-olds starting at the basketball school to the first team, and it is evident that the men’s professional first team is the locomotive that pulls the train, but the more wagons the train has, the better.”

Marc Bernadich: “At Bàsquet Manresa, we also have women’s teams and it is true that it is a clearly a thing of the future.”

Gorka Aixàs: “Geographically, it affects us. We have a team in the Women’s First Division 10 kilometers away, in Seu d’Urgell, and historically we have been less known and that is the reality.”

 

PART II: Access the second part of the article through this link.

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