Europe's leading clubs take the plunge

When the first round of Euroleague fixtures tipped off last night - with London Towers taking on Frankfurt Skyliners at Crystal Palace - it represented the biggest split in the sport's history.

When the first round of Euroleague fixtures tipped off last night - with London Towers taking on Frankfurt Skyliners at Crystal Palace - it represented the biggest split in the sport's history.

The driving force has been cash, with many of Europe's top clubs breaking away from their international governing body to form their own competition.

FIBA's official competition, the Suproleague, begins later this month, but it will be minus the most glamorous clubs, such as Barcelona and Real Madrid, who have also coined the best television deal. FIBA's clubs will share $20m (£13.8m), but Euroleague's will split $35m, with coverage by Eurosport and the Spanish communications giant Telefonica.

"We want to be the NBA of Europe. Clearly it isn't good for basketball and maybe in one or two years we will have reconciliation," said a Euroleague spokesman, Vladimir Stankovic.

The Towers' managing director, Rick Taylor, said: "The best teams are in the Euroleague. "It's the biggest thing that's happened in British basketball. We cannot expect to stay on this island and get better." Towers are also competing in the fledgling North European Basketball League.

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