The administration of the Israel Basketball League yesterday did away with the so-called Russian rule that limits the number of foreigners on the court at any given time. At the same time, the league voted to limit the number of foreigners on any given game-time roster to four and season roster to eight. The league also decided to allow teams that finish in last place to pay a compensatory fee to avoid relegation.
Previously, teams were required to play at least two Israelis at all times, but there was no limit to foreigners on the team roster. The overall roster limit was set at 15 players.
These decisions will remain binding for the coming three season.
"We stand behind the agreement," said Nir Alon, the chairman of the Players Association. "There are good aspects of the decision - the number of foreigners will be reduced by a third; Israeli players won't be adversely affected; there will be greater Israeli depth on the bench."
A more far-reaching decision was to create a pay-to-stay mechanism. Under the current system, the first place team in the second-tier National League gets promoted, replacing the last place team of the top tier, on condition it can meet the minimal annual budget of NIS 5 million for the first season, NIS 5.5 million for the second season and NIS 5.75 million for the third season. Yesterday, the league voted to allow the last place team to avoid relegation by paying a yet-to-be-determined compensation fee.
"There is something a little unsportsmanlike about the decision to allow teams to join the league on a financial basis, but it's important to preserve teams," said Haim Ohayon, the Gilboa/Galil chairman, after the meeting. "It will also make it easier to take chances and sign young players without worrying about relegation. Basketball isn't just in Tel Aviv, and the decision will allow teams from the outlying areas to participate."
The decision, though, makes it unclear how many teams will play in the Super League next season. "We will strive this summer to add Ashkelon and Hapoel Tel Aviv, and in the coming years we will try to bring in teams from more cities," said Avner Kopel, the chairman of the administration. "I think the decisions will add financial stability to the league."
Shimon Mizrahi, chairman of Maccabi Tel Aviv, said the new rules would force him to build two separate teams. "There are things that hurt Maccabi, but we'll try to live with them," he commented.
Mizrahi also expressed displeasure regarding the fact that the league did not discuss the Final Four format, which Maccabi would like to see dropped and replaced by playoff series as in the quarterfinals.