— Published 25 August 2023

Asia, the new promised land of basketball

The decor may surprise. The formula, too. Three countries, a first in history, two of which have never weighed much on the basketball map.

But FIBA has done its sums: the Men’s Basketball World Cup, which kicks off this Friday August 25 in Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan, promises to be the biggest in history. The largest geographically. And, above all, the most profitable.

Andreas Zagklis, FIBA’s Secretary General, made this clear in a press briefing held ten days before the tournament kicks off: the 2023 event will be at least one head bigger than any previous edition. “We’re very excited about this World Cup, confided the Greek, without ever giving up a narrow smile. The three host countries represent a total population of over 500 million. We’ve never had the tournament in such a large population pool before.

For this Asian edition, organized four years after a 2019 World Cup in China already weighed down with a good weight of superlatives, FIBA has pushed back the walls. The qualification phase has been extended to 80 teams. The result is that 32 nations will take part in the final phase, nearly a third of whom have never before been invited to the big table. Proof that basketball is becoming even more universal. FIBA can rub its hands.

Now for business. The 2023 World Cup has 24 national partners, in addition to FIBA’s ten global sponsors associated with the event. “This is the largest number in history,” explains Andreas Zaglis. The Philippines, where basketball enjoys immense popularity, contributed ten. Japan did its bit by adding eight partners. Indonesia found the last six.

FIBA’s General Secretary makes no secret of the fact: Asia is at the top of the list of the most promising markets in terms of development. “The Asian market is fundamental to the growth of basketball, he explains. From a commercial point of view, the potential is considerable. But the continent needs more club competitions. That’s what we’re working on. We’re going to provide that.

The next edition, scheduled for 2027, will be held in Qatar. Not exactly a stronghold of international basketball. But FIBA defends its decision to hold the first men’s World Cup in the Persian Gulf.

It’s not a question of business, but of international development, suggests Andreas Zagklis. Our mission at FIBA is to ensure that basketball becomes increasingly popular throughout the world. But we can’t do that without taking our sport where people want to see it. The 2027 World Cup in Qatar will be a very compact edition, in venues that have already been built, in a country that knows perfectly well how to organize major sporting events.

In response to a question from FrancsJeux, FIBA’s General Secretary acknowledged that the organization was open to several formulas for its major event. A single country as in China in 2019 or Qatar in four years’ time, a trio of host nations as for the 2023 edition. “Our Board decided that the World Cup could be held in several countries, up to a maximum of four, explains Andreas Zagklis. We are open to co-hosting the 2031 event. This could have been the case for 2027. We’ll know more about such a formula after this 2023 World Cup in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.

In the meantime, FIBA has struck a deal with the NBA for its first three-country World Cup. An agreement between the two parties was announced at the beginning of the month for the broadcasting of matches in some twenty countries, including Spain, Greece, Argentina, Lithuania, Serbia and Slovenia. FIBA’s digital platform, Courtside 1891, will be accessible on the NBA’s official app and website, subject to purchase of the tournament pass.

A collaboration that makes sense, suggests Andreas Zagklis. Another step forward. For the first time, the World Cup can be followed anywhere on the planet, on TV or via streaming.”