Interview with PBL Chairman Andrey Vatutin

Photo: Yuriy Ridyakin.
Text: ULEB Press service

Summer 2010 saw the inception of the Professional Basketball League (PBL) in Russia. One year later, the PBL got a title sponsor for the competition (BEKO), has succesfully organised its first championship and has been admitted into the ULEB. So, it´s time to chat with PBL Board Chairman - and CSKA Moscow President - Andrey Vatutin to learn more on professional basketball in Russia.


- PBL was born one year ago. What´s the health of the League in its first anniversary?

Just a year ago Russian club basketball was struggling. Media and fans were discussing not basketball, but scandals surrounding the game, and we weren’t sure if the next championship would take place. They were no regulations, no format, no staff, no web site, no sponsors… And after a year since then there are only talks about how good is the new league. I consider BEKO PBL debut season a successful one. The clubs seized an opportunity to build their own competition from scratch. For the first time in many years no one could predict a result of any game. Long-term leading club CSKA suffered 9 losses, having lost one third of all the games of the regular season, the club was also facing play-off elimination in the first round but went on to win a title. Regular season winner UNICS lost 6 times. Five clubs battled for the home court advantage, while the league’s newcomer Nizhny Novgorod managed to host the All-Star Game in a vivid fashion, and finished 5th place in the final standings. The level of local referees has also gone up.

During this year we’ve managed to create a product, which enjoys some high demand. The success was also recognized internationally – Russian league has been finally included in ULEB, which allows taking part in the work of international institutes and delegate our clubs into the top international competitions. And for this I would like to thank a lot of people involved – sports management, the clubs, which support each other when solving different tasks and want to improve together.

- What´s the current situation in the clubs professional Russian basketball?

I would call it an optimistic one. Yes, at the end of the season we had to exclude Dynamo Moscow, but its problems have been accumulated over many years, and the new management just couldn’t solve it last season. But we have reasons to hope that over time one of the oldest clubs in Russia and in the world would be able to cope with the crisis and get back into the elite level. Talking about the other clubs it would be enough just to take a look at the pre-season news – all the clubs are strengthening their rosters. Plus we’ve again included to the tournament the farthest club of the country – Spartak-Primorye from Vladivostok, which enjoys good traditions and big will to fight at the top level again.

- Which are your main concerns, which are the main problems you are facing in Russia?

Our main problem is a relatively low popularity of basketball against a background of weak sports market. It doesn’t allow us to fully use the league’s and the leading clubs’ marketing potential. Because of this there is a tough case of basketball TV broadcasting. The unique national sports channel Russia-2 doesn’t have enough broadcasting space to respect the interests of all sports. At the same time Russian viewers aren’t yet use to watch basketball at pay-to-watch channels, such as NTV PLUS. So if NTV PLUS pays for the rights to show Euroleague, while it happens so that no one needs Russian basketball. Sometimes the PBL itself has to pay to be broadcasted, and lower clubs do not get on air countrywide at all. Nevertheless the situation may be clarified as normal for the 1-year-old project and we’re working to improve it. Having been anticipating problems with the regular TV, after the creation of the league we’ve declared that first of all we wanted to make internet-broadcasting, and the majority of the matches were and are available in the internet. There is another serious question, which is in strong connection with the previous one. It’s the lack of modern capacious arenas in our country. Unfortunately at the present time there’s no possibility to solve this problem by clubs. And here we expect a help from the government.

- How do you see European basketball from the perspective of a young League as PBL?

European basketball naturally reacts on periods of recession and prosperity in the economics, but at the same time clearly follows the chosen path of development. We like the fact that in basketball gradually acclimate methods, which allow getting closer to the best examples of sport leagues, allow creating an industry which doesn’t depend on patronage investments from clubs’ owners. That is why PBL teams are participating actively in the work of ULEB and Euroleague, intend to participate in all continental competitions.

- How do you envision pro basketball in Russia in 5 years?

I’m sure it will progress. We must achieve better TV-broadcasting, attendance growing, bigger sponsor interest. We believe that online streaming, to which we pay a lot of attention, will become one of the most important tools for the league. One of our goals is development of basketball in our country, progress of the national team, therefore we want Russian players to play leading roles in their respective teams.

Like many experts notice, PBL is already one of the top 2 or 3 leagues in Europe in terms of competition. That’s why we make every effort for the number of Russian clubs in the Euroleague and the Eurocup to grow in proportion to its competitive ability.



Russian Basketball Federation has approved BEKO PBL’s proposal to postpone the final date of the upcoming championships to the 22 of May, leaving space in calendar for play-offs. Also the schedule of the tournament has been approved and therefore the opening game between BC Nizhny Novgorod and CSKA will take place on Thursday, October 6th.


In early September the League welcomed Euroleague brand manager Alex Ferrer and took a listen of independent marketing professionals.


Next season's games will be broadcasted at PBL TV.


BC Nizhny Novogorod head coach has been named the best coach of 2010/2011 season by the League.


BEKO PBL govering body has discussed possible merge of the league with VTB United league.

Spartak-Primorye from Vladivostok will play in the PBL next season if they are able to meet certain requierements.

The Moscow club is out of the top Russian league due to financial problems.

4 – 4 – 5 – 10 – 12 – 13 – 15 – 39 – 95 – 101 – 500 – 5000.


League's finals standings after the end of all play-offs series.