Macau basketball tournament set for slam dunk after hotshot sports lawyer settles Fiba legal dispute

World governing body reaches agreement with The Super 8: Macau Basketball Invitational after wrangle over official recognition

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 1:38pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 10:09pm

A truce has been called in a battle over Asian club basketball after the sport’s world governing body finally gave official recognition to an upstart Macau tournament.

The Super 8: Macau Basketball Invitational will take place at Studio City on September 20-24 and will feature eight top teams from the major domestic leagues in China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

Earlier this month tournament organisers had run into a legal dispute with the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) and Fiba Asia, which took umbrage at the original branding as “The Asia League”.

The tournament also marketed itself as the premier club competition in the Asia-Pacific region. Fiba Asia runs its own annual club competition, the Asia Champions Cup.

“We have a resolution to make sure all the teams are on board,” said Matt Beyer, chief executive of The Super 8: Macau Basketball Invitational.

“Now I want to focus on having a great event, promoting it positively and getting all of the attention it deserves for being a basketball event, not a cage fight.

“We would like it to be less about the bloodbath with Fiba, because it’s done and everybody is happy.”

An agreement was reached with Fiba after Beyer hired hotshot Swiss lawyer Thomas Werlen from Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, one of the world’s biggest litigation firms.

“He’s very well-respected in the sports governing body world in Switzerland,” Beyer said.

Werlen took over as external counsel for football’s world governing body Fifa after the arrests of several top officials in predawn raids in Zurich in May 2015. He is representing Fifa in criminal investigations being pursued in the US and Switzerland.

“It got real dark,” said Beyer of the dispute with Fiba. “It wasn’t about the lawyers. It was an issue where we needed to come to understanding.

“We really needed help with someone who had expertise in the field of dealing with these governing bodies. He’s a litigator who has done tonnes of different commercial disputes throughout his lifetime. He’s an expert.”

Werlen was hired on August 17 and an official agreement with Fiba came into effect on Monday.

“He was able to bridge both sides, seeking a resolution from day one rather than looking to go through a mess of damages and lawsuits and court cases,” said Beyer.

“I really take my hat off to him, and I appreciate Fiba’s willingness to sit down and engage in conversation and take the matter seriously, to come to a point where they could feel comfortable with our event happening.”

According to Beyer, the resolution dictates that the tournament organisers recognise Fiba as the top governing body and regulator of international club-to-club basketball in the Asia-Pacific region and defer to them.

“I think Fiba is happy for us to coexist as long as we don’t operate an event that makes the clubs look bad, or makes them look bad as a result,” said Beyer.

“We would like to work with Fiba long-term if that is something they’re open to.”

The teams involved are Zhejiang Guangsha Lions and Shenzhen Leopard from mainland China; Ryukyu Golden Kings and Chiba Jets from Japan; Samsung Thunders and Goyang Orion Orions from South Korea; and Fubon Braves and Pauian Archiland from Taiwan.

Each club finished in the top five of their respective domestic leagues last season.

All teams are contracted to bring their strongest roster including their import players. Star names include Joseph Lin – brother of NBA star Jeremy Lin – for the Braves; the Lions’ Ioannis Bourousis, who is the all-time leading rebounder in the EuroLeague and starting centre for the Greek national team for over 10 years; and Leopard’s Keith Langford, top scorer in the EuroLeague for three years in a row.

“We hope to show people a great basketball party,” said Beyer. “First and foremost we want people to have fun. It’s in a great location, an incredible venue.

“We want to raise the level of club-to-club competition that happens across the Asia-Pacific countries, and really increase the communication across the different leagues.

“We would like to create sports and event properties that go at multiple times throughout the year.”

The live streaming broadcast will be available on prime time television and digital platforms in all of the countries involved – Sina in China, YouTube-affiliated SPOTV in South Korea, and Eleven Sports in Taiwan, while organisers are finishing final negotiations with a network in Japan. TVB will broadcast the event in Hong Kong.

“Our model is based on media rights and sponsorships,” said Beyer. “We’re putting together an event people can watch in person as well as in their homes, that’s entertaining and has a strong fanbase that can interact with our aggressive social media promotions.

“Marketing is really important. It’s not just about the actual game that happens on the day but it’s the lead-up, making the fans use it as a social activity. That’s the goal for doing this.”