FIBA-Asia to lose qualifying status
MANILA, Philippines - Starting 2017, the FIBA-Asia Championships will no longer be the qualifier for either the Olympics or World Cup as it is transformed from a biennial competition to a once-in-four-years conclave as a stand-alone continental tournament.
This year’s FIBA-Asia Championships marked the last World Cup qualifier and the 2015 edition will be the last Olympic qualifier for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. In 2017, the FIBA-Asia Championships will begin a new four-year cycle, employing a home-and-away qualification system after each World Cup. There will be six so-called windows in which each team plays one home and one away game on the way to qualifying for the continental joust.
Because the FIBA-Asia Championships will not be linked to the Olympics or World Cup, the motivation for teams to win the crown is prestige or bragging rights as in the case of the Asian Games. The FIBA-Asia Championships became the qualifying tournament for the World Cup starting in 1970.
After next year’s FIBA World Cup involving 24 teams, the 2019 version will expand to 32 broken down into the host country, five from Africa, seven from the Americas, seven from Asia and Oceania and 12 from Europe. There will be no allocation for wildcards. The 2014 World Cup, where the Philippines will play as one of three Asian qualifiers, brings together the host country (Spain), the previous Olympic champion US, six from Europe (excluding Spain), four from the Americas, three from Africa, Iran, the Philippines and South Korea from Asia and Australia and New Zealand from Oceania. FIBA will complete the cast by inviting four wildcard teams.
The wildcards were introduced when FIBA increased the playing teams from 16 to 24 at the 2006 World Championships in Saitama. For the 2010 tournament in Turkey, 14 teams paid a fee of 500,000 EUR or P30 Million each to join the wildcard lottery. From 14, FIBA trimmed the list to eight and finally, picked Germany, Lithuania and Russia from Europe and Lebanon from Asia. The restriction is a zone may be represented by up to three countries. Cameroon, Great Britain, South Korea and Nigeria were the four semifinalists who were struck out in the second round of voting.
A wildcard is chosen based on the popularity of basketball in the country, the quality and sporting results of the national team, the involvement of local TV in domestic and international competitions, the importance to FIBA’s marketing and TV partners and the value to the World Cup organizers.
At the 2015 FIBA-Asia Championships, only the winner will be awarded the Asian ticket to the 2016 Olympics which involves 12 teams. The Olympic cast will not be expanded but FIBA is lobbying to introduce a 3x3 event with an age cap and limited participation.
FIBA communications director Patrick Koller, a Manila visitor during the recent FIBA-Asia Championships, said the new qualifying system for the World Cup will mean involving more than 140 countries playing over 1,200 games. Because of the home-and-away format, national teams are guaranteed to play before home fans in every qualifying window. It’s an opportunity for new countries and players to emerge in the global basketball landscape, noted Koller.
In explaining the new system, FIBA said the change was made because unlike other team sports, there are
currently no official regular home games for national teams, no development potential for most national federations as the same countries play and win the major competitions and no lead-up to the flagship national team competitions.
The qualification for the 2020 Olympics will be via the 2019 World Cup and four Olympic qualifying tournaments in four zones, namely, Europe, Americas, Africa and Asia-Oceania, in June 2020. The tentative qualifying format will elevate the top seven finishers of the World Cup, the host country and the four zone champions to the 2020 Olympics.
The problem that FIBA faces in scheduling the two-year qualifying process for the World Cup is it cuts into the NBA season, disenfranchising some of the best players in Europe and the US. It also conflicts with the PBA schedule, restricting pros from representing the country in the different windows of qualification.
Euroleague Basketball chief executive Jordi Bertomeu has opposed the new system, saying, “the main thing is that we know for sure that the best players will not be on the court…France, Germany, Spain, Italy – they all have many international players in the NBA, should these countries play in these qualification games without their top players?”
FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann said, “FIBA continues to be willing to find the best solution with other stakeholders regarding the exact dates and duration of the windows, however, those six windows (over an 18-month period) are set and necessary.”
The six qualifying windows for the 2019 World Cup will be held from November 2017 to February 2019. The six windows for the 2021 FIBA-Asia Championships will be from November 2019 to November 2020. The six windows for the 2023 World Cup will be from November 2021 to February 2023. The 2019 and 2023 World Cup will be in September.