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Euroleague goes to Israel by: Golan Hazani,


Next year basketball's Euroleague Final Four will be held in Athens, and Euroleague officials have given the task of organizing Final Four events to Israeli-owned Comtec, headed by Daniel Benaim.

This is the first time the league has outsourced Final Four event planning. The contract with Comtec is for a year, with an option to extend for another four. It includes the ULEB cup, to be held in April, a raffle in Greece in September, and six meetings in Europe between Euroleague champion CSKA and Maccabi Tel Aviv, and NBA teams, including NBA champion Miami Heat.

With an annual budget of some 30 million euros, the Euroleague will spend about five million on the Athens games. The contract with Comtec is for between 1-2 million Euros. “The Euroleague and our connections with the league is a great compliment and a show of confidence in Comtec,” said Benaim. “I’ve done other events, but this time I am excited. We intend to use this opportunity and to take advantage of it, big time.”

Comtec’s path to the Euroleague contract began in 1994, when the Final Four was held in Israel for the first time, and Maccabi Tel Aviv was assigned the task of organizing the games. Several months before the event Comtec, then a new company, planned seven conferences for the Inter-American Development Bank, which were held simultaneously in Israel, at a cost of USD 5.5 million.

“This was the first time I was able, as a producer, to fulfill everything I'd dreamed about,” says Benaim. “I brought a 100-meter (roughly 300 feet) tent to Israel, we placed it in Binyanei Ha’uma in Jerusalem, and we built 128 offices in the tent for the guests.”

Several months later, he says, Ami Eshel of Maccabi Tel Aviv called him and said, “I heard you have a large tent.” Thus began a friendship that has lasted for ten years. Maccabi used Comtec to organize the Final Four that year, and for the next ten years Comtec organized all of Maccabi’s events in Israel. In 2004, when the final Four was once again held in Israel, Comtec worked with the Euroleague’s organizers on the event.

Benaim also clicked with the Euroleague organizers. “They realized that they had someone they could depend on, and they gave their all,” says Benaim. “Eventually, (Euroleague CEO) Jordi Bertomeu and (Maccabi Tel Aviv President) Shimon Mizrahi and the journalists who were hanging around at the games said that we’d done something that no one else had done. My advantage is that I am not a sports freak. I look at things from the organizing view. I have experience from business conferences, and there’s no reason that basketball games like that shouldn't be treated like business events.”

At that event the Euroleague asked Benaim to organize a pre-game program. He brought in Achinoam Nini and Mayumana for a 13-minute pre-game concert, but when the first game went into overtime, holding the concert would have caused the finals to start late.

“Andrea Bassani, who was in charge of the media, whispered in my ear, ‘We’ll have to skip the concert.’ I was so agitated I wanted to take my tie and strangle someone. We’d spent USD 100,000 on this show. I said to him, ‘There’s no way we’re going to skip the concert, don’t get involved.’ He couldn't believe it. I gave an order through the headphones, and the concert began. And then he began to get feedback that the TV stations loved the performance and wanted to broadcast it. Let me tell you something about our profession: You can work like crazy for a year, and that entire year turns into 20 seconds of decision.”

The choice of Comtec to organize the games in Athens this year was received with great suspicion by the Greeks. “It took me two hours to convince them that I am not a Maccabi fan, that I’m not a mole,” says Benaim.

Was the decision to choose you connected to your being an Israeli company?

“Bertomeu has much respect for our creativity and dynamism as Israelis and Jews, and Comtec’s staff meshed nearly perfectly with Euroleague staff. What made him ‘get it’ this time was a meeting we had in Barcelona after we opened our office there. He asked what I was doing there, and I said we’d just opened our Barcelona offices. I saw a spark in his eyes, and he said that we needed to talk.”

Why did the Euroleague decide to outsource this time?
“It was a matter of economics. The Euroleague realized that they’re a basketball organization and not an event planner. Every businessperson will tell you that outsourcing sometimes saves a lot of money. What caused them finally to decide in our favor was the good chemistry between their staff and us. There wasn’t even a bid, only several pleasant meetings between Jordi and me.”

“Comtec is a company with good financial stability, and we’ve upheld ourselves as a boutique even though we organize large events. I have no doubt that when the time comes we’ll get a return on our connection with the Euroleague. I believe the demands will increase, and if we succeed, the Euroleague will give Comtec more and more responsibility.”

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