Meet The Member: “The Opportunity To Drive A Rebirth Really Interested Me.” – Umberto Gandini, New Lega Basket Serie A President
May 4, 2020
iSportconnect had the opportunity to chat with Umberto Gandini, the recently appointed President of Lega Basket Serie A, Italy’s national basketball league, to see how he has been operating in the early days of his new position during the coronavirus pandemic and his aims for the league going forward.
Obviously your start has been slightly disrupted Umberto, but how much are you looking forward to properly getting on with your new role as President of LBA once the Coronavirus pandemic is over?
Yes, the start was very complex and immediately affected by the pandemic. We decided to suspend the season indefinitely the same day I was elected and since then all work has been done to manage the emergency. The season was cancelled on April 8th and proper planning started for managing the recovery and to think about the new season. This is now the time in which we are looking at the regulations for participation in Serie A and the format that we can implement once the authorities give us the green light to start training and to plan a proper schedule for the season 2020/2021.
How are you using the time to prepare for when you get the opportunity to get back to work, is the best use of this time for strategic planning?
I’ve been working smartly since the election, mainly conference calls and virtual board meetings are the daily routine in these days. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to visit the offices of the LBA and to personally meet the people who work for me, which I will do as soon as I’m allowed to travel freely.
And yes, we’re now working on reviewing current rules and regulations in order to prepare for the new season, but bearing in mind that we’re coming off such a tragedy for the country and the world it won’t be easy. A lot of things will be affected, from sponsorship revenues to players and coaches availability, and the survival of certain clubs is at stake. Most likely we would plan for a one year restart with a view on a new three-year plan for the season from 2021/2022 onwards, particularly considering the new domestic TV rights tender process is due this June.
What are your goals for your time working at the LBA and why was it something that interested you?
I would really like to help change the future of the league and of basketball in this country, trying to regain the leading role Italy had in the final part of the last century in Europe. Many things have changed and more robust revenue streams have now positioned other leagues in the driver seat, but the ambition is to recuperate as fast as it is practicable.
We have to improve the experience for fans inside and outside the arenas, improve the game by accessing better players on the market and developing local talents that have been missing lately. Basketball is the only other professional team sport in Italy besides football, and the opportunity to drive a rebirth interested me while I was considering my future. I feel it is a great opportunity to learn new things and to be instrumental to the growth of the sport in Italy.
In terms of challenges, what do you think are the biggest ones facing the LBA and how will you overcome them?
Definitely the main challenge is to find new resources and better revenues to help the clubs to be sustainable and have the opportunity to plan mid term. The main factor is to attract better and stronger players in this market to challenge other leagues in Europe which are now ahead of us.
It’s my goal to develop a product which will attract new viewers, mainly in younger demographics, and to persuade broadcasters and OTT to invest in basketball. But I cannot deny that in such a period a lot needs to be done by the government and the authorities to design laws and rules which can facilitate the start of a new era following the pandemic.
As you stated, Italy is of course one of the major basketball nations in Europe, with a number of NBA players as well, but how important is it to continue to grow the product and the fanbase back home, where do you think you can get better?
It’s very important. It’s important to understand the fans better, to establish stronger links with them and to offer them a competitive environment where their teams can play and be spectacular, as basketball is. Arenas have to improve and the experience for fans has to become more complete, but you can never forget how important the actors and directors are when you are producing content.