Hapoel Jerusalem owner Ori Allon will have to wait at least one more year to realize his dream of seeing the team play in the Euroleague.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Despite winning an historic Israeli championship last week, Hapoel Jerusalem will have to wait at least one more year to play in the Euroleague after its bid to receive a wild card was rejected on Monday.
Jerusalem was hoping to receive direct entry into the regular season of European basketball’s premier club competition after defeating Hapoel Eilat last week to claim its first BSL championship. However, the Euroleague overlooked Jerusalem on Monday and decided to grant wild card berths to Bayern Munich of Germany, Strasbourg of France, Lokomotiv Kuban of Russia and Darussafaka Istanbul of Turkey, while also handing one B License to the Turkish League champion Karsiyaka Izmir.
Since the takeover of the club by the ownership group led by Ori Allon two years ago, and in particular after moving to its new arena this season, Hapoel has been in talks with the Euroleague in the hope of one day becoming a permanent member. Hapoel was handed a wild-card entry into the qualifiers for 2014/15, but it failed to progress.
Allon and team officials met with Euroleague President Jordi Bertomeu at the Final Four earlier this year in an attempt to persuade him, but their efforts to enter the competition in 2015/16 proved unsuccessful and Jerusalem will have to settle for a place in the Eurocup regular season once more.
“We accept the Euroleague’s decision,” read a Hapoel Jerusalem statement. “This decision will not divert us from the longterm goals set out by the management and ownership led by Ori Allon when they bought the club two years ago. The Israeli champion will build a strong and attractive team which will aspire to succeed in all competitions next season.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv remains the only Israeli club guaranteed a place in the Euroleague regular season as one of 11 teams with an A license.
Apart from the 11 A license clubs, eight B licenses are awarded directly through domestic league qualification to teams from the Adriatic League (2), France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia and Spain.
Five temporary one-year B licenses were assigned on Monday, with the Euroleague previously announcing that priority will be given to suitable clubs in France, Germany, Turkey and the United Kingdom due to their status as strategic markets for the competition.
“The Board evaluated a number of different criteria before proposing the wild cards, including market growth strategy and the competitive standard of the team, amongst others,” read a Euroleague statement.
Monday’s decision will have a direct effect on Jerusalem’s preparations for next season, with the chances of the likes of Gal Mekel joining the team significantly diminishing.
“The BSL is disappointed with the Euroleague’s decision,” read a BSL press release.
“We think that a team like Hapoel Jerusalem with an arena of 11,000 seats, an owner with financial muscle and a great fan base, which also won the championship of Israel, must play in the Euroleague.”