The Euroleague, the continental basketball competition in which Maccabi Tel Aviv plays in, canceled the remainder of the 2019/20 season due to the complications of the coronavirus.
After months of speculation, the final decision was made when the Euroleague Commercial Assets Shareholders Executive Board met remotely on Monday.
In addition, the Euroleague’s secondary competition, the EuroCup, was also ended and in keeping with the continued values of sports integrity and fairness, the Executive Board decided not to recognize any team as the champion for the 2019/20 campaigns.
After having been suspended on March 12, the Euroleague attempted to find a way to resume the premier European competition, but logistical challenges that existed for teams from nine different countries made it nearly impossible. This past Saturday saw some players meet remotely with the Euroleague officials, where they expressed their concerns about the season’s resumption as did the Euroleague Players Association, which brought up various issues including player health and safety as well as potential injuries.
After having its continental season ended early, Maccabi Tel Aviv will now turn its focus to the local Israeli league, which is gearing up to return to the court on June 20 and run until the end of July. The yellow-and-blue had a spectacular run in Europe going 19-9, good for fifth place, as it was poised to capture home-court advantage after advancing to the playoffs.
“We built a team this season aimed for glory,” said Maccabi Tel Aviv Chairman Shimon Mizrahi. “The players and coaches were ready to compete for all of the titles at both the domestic and Euroleague levels. Up until the coronavirus pandemic, we led the Israeli League and qualified for the quarterfinals of the Euroleague.
“Today is a sad day for us, but we were thrilled with our fans at Yad Eliyahu week after week, game after game. We want to thank Jordi Bertomeu and the Euroleague management for their fine work and firm responsibility that they have demonstrated.”
Bertomeu, the Euroleague Basketball President spoke about the cancellation of the season.
“Without a doubt, this is the most difficult decision we have had to take in our 20-year history,” noted Bertomeu. “Due to reasons beyond our control, we have been forced to cut short the most successful and exciting season in European basketball history. This comes after two-and-a-half months in which all the league’s stakeholders maintained their determination and exhausted every possible avenue in trying to deliver a complete and uniquely special season to our fans, whose passion is the driving force for all our efforts. That is our commitment and our passion every single season, and so falling short due to forces beyond anyone’s control is what saddens us most.
“Nonetheless, record-breaking data showing how much our fans enjoyed the games to date gives us more energy than ever to start planning for an even better 2020/21 season. I am especially proud of how the Euroleague and EuroCup communities have remained united in incredibly tough times.
“Proud of our clubs and their ownership for the courage in their decisions and for their generous contributions to their communities in such difficult times. Proud of our commercial partners, who have shown their continued commitment to and belief in our brand and what it represents. Proud of our players, coaches and referees who have been supportive and understanding throughout. Proud of our fans, who have remained close to us and have constantly expressed how much they wanted the competitions to come back. This is an extraordinary community, and we are privileged to be a part of it.”
The Euroleague concurred with players about the challenges that surrounded bringing back the league, which could affect the health and safety of the athletes, fans, staff, partners and local communities, which was a top priority.
The varied evolution of COVID-19 in different Euroleague and EuroCup territories would not guarantee that all teams could hold their training camp and prepare for official games under the same conditions. As well, a reduced training camp schedule would cause an increased injury risk for players and for reasons of sporting integrity, all competition system modifications including a reduced number of teams were discarded.
“Obviously, we had many motivations to resume the 2019/20 season, but in such an exceptional situation, we have to put people’s health first and ahead of any other interest: our players, our coaches, our referees, our clubs, their staff, our league staff, our broadcasters, and all of their families,” continued Bertmoneu. “By doing so, we stay true to our beliefs and what we stand for. In the coming months we only have one mission – to do everything in our power to help our communities come back stronger, and to build the best version of ourselves, on and off the court, for when we can be reunited with the fans. This is not an end, but rather a new beginning.”
The Euroleague declared that the 18 teams who took part in this past season will be able to compete in next year’s league while the 2020/21 training camps will run for extended durations compared to previous seasons in order to allow players to recover their physical and mental shape in time for the new season.
The upcoming campaign will begin on October 1, 2020 as the league and clubs will continue to monitor the evolution of COVID-19, staying in close contact with governments and public health authorities to ensure optimal conditions for all participants when the season starts.
The league and its clubs will devote all possible efforts and launch league-wide and individual actions to support their respective communities’ recovery efforts, including the exploration of a season-opening charity event to celebrate the Euroleague’s return to the court.