Basketball’s new competition calendar will help the “underperforming” sport improve its visibility and appeal, International Basketball Federation (FIBA) director of media and marketing Frank Leenders claimed here, while media rights director Paul Stimpson admitted the current system is “killing” its athletes.
The modified calendar, due to come into effect in 2017, includes a revamped qualification process for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, recently awarded to China, and will have a direct effect on how teams can secure places at the Olympic Games in Tokyo the following year.
Under the qualification system, seven countries, made up of the two highest ranking European and Americas teams and the top performing African, Asian and Oceania side at the 2019 Basketball World Cup, will earn a berth at Tokyo 2020.
The other teams will have to battle it out in Olympic qualifying tournaments.
To earn qualification for the World Cup, held every four years, competing countries across the four continents - Europe, Americas, Africa and Asia Pacific - will now be split into two divisions, A and B, to correspond with their ability level.
They will play each other home and away in 15-month cycles, with the top three teams in each division, made up of 16 sides, progressing to the next phase.
Continental Championships will now be held every four years instead of biennially with the aim being to increase exposure of the sport by giving fans across the world more opportunities to see their teams compete on home soil.
The proposal has attracted some criticism, Leenders admitted, but he hopes the revamp will provide great benefit to the sport going forward.
“We know we have been underperforming in terms of visibility and popularity across the world and we believe this new competition system will change that,” he said.
“This will help the entire movement of global basketball and will provide us with a beneficial product to help us become stronger.
“For some clubs around the world the system is too much but everybody else shares our view and is excited about it.”
Under the revamped competition calendar, players will also get one in four summers off participating in tournaments for their countries, with Stimpson believing the new system will "generate much more media coverage around the world".
"We have had a good response from the athletes as we were killing them with the old schedule but now they are entitled to more time off," he said.
The new competition programme, discussed at length by basketball’s governing body for more than three years, will involve six qualification windows for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, where players are released from their clubs for a week-long period in order to represent their country.
These will begin in November 2017 and will take place in February, June and September, as well as the following November and February.
The only league not to adhere to this is the National Basketball Association (NBA), one of the best-known sports leagues in the world, whose season will carry on during the international breaks while others across the globe will grind to a halt.
Leenders, however, revealed they have been in “extensive” discussions with the NBA and that they have been “strongly involved” in the development of the new basketball format.
Players in the NBA will be available when they are not in domestic action, Leenders confirmed.
“We’ve had no problems with the NBA and we have been in extensive exchanges with them throughout the process,” the Dutchman added.
The 2019 FIBA World Cup will be the first in the tournament’s history to include 32 teams and also forms part of FIBA’s new strategy as the event was originally scheduled to take place in 2018 but was put back a year in order to avoid a clash with the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
September 2015: New basketball competition system announced by FIBA
June 2015: Rio 2016 basketball place still uncertain for Brazil as new competition system moves step closer
June 2015: Japanese Basketball Association rewarded for progress by FIBA but suspension remains intact
June 2015: Basketball qualification process for Olympic Games gets underway
November 2012: FIBA introduce new calendar for World Cup