UNITE – OR DIE?

Three AGMs, three decisions, one vision. And a singular path forward must be determined this week as Britain’s governing bodies decide how they want to take the sport forward up to 2012 and beyond.

On the table is a consultative paper put forward by the British Basketball Federation, the umbrella body of the three home nations. With FIBA demanding action – and proof of progress – ahead of its March decision on whether to grant Team GB a place at the London Olympics, the BBF has laid out the various options available – understood to range from a status quo at one extreme of the spectrum to a full merger of England Basketball, Basketball Scotland and Basketball Wales.

Doing nothing, admits BBF chairman Bill McInnes, is simply unthinkable. “If the home nations are not aligned,” he told MVP, “then how can we persuade FIBA than we’re working together?”

Still, there is likely to be considerable resistance to the idea that the organisations – each with over a half-century in existence – should vote themselves into oblivion.

The document has already been considered by England Basketball’s board at a meeting last week. “There are some options we’re ruled out and some which can be considered,” revealed its new chair Terry Donovan. The acceptable alternatives will remain under wraps, he added, until his counterparts have made their own evaluations.

The Scots and Welsh, at their own respective AGMS, met on Sunday to debate their position. And representatives from all three will convene in Manchester next Friday under the BBF’s guise to attempt to agree a collective position.

McInnes is looking for a home nation consensus (wooller.com)

“We’ve tried to identity the pros and cons of every option without any spin,” McInnes stated. That includes the costs involved, the value of being independent members of FIBA and, inevitably, the political ramifications.

“By the end of the year, we want to make a governance structure available to FIBA that sets out what our long-term plans are,”  the former GB international added.

“We want to have a document then which is supported by the three home countries and British Basketball, and which can be fed into the overall strategy from 2012-16.”

It is understood that soundings will be taken from FIBA officials, including secretary general Patrick Baumann, before a final submission is made ahead of the Central Board meeting that will vote on the issue of the Olympic place.

However it is clear that reaching a consensus will not be easy. One national board member, speaking to MVP, was dismissive of squeezing three into one.

“Having the GB set-up at a high performance level has brought no benefit to each of the three home countries,” he argued.

“And no-one is talking about the funding issue. It’s set up separately in England, Scotland and Wales. You would still need to keep separate entities to get the money towards grassroots development.”

McInnes admits that there is still scope to find alternative paths to those put forward by BBF but time is running out. He remains optimistic, nonetheless, that an answer can be found which is acceptable to all.

“There’s no reason why we can’t sort something,” he said. “But we need to look at all the options out there, even some which might not available yet. That way we can, in the words of Patrick Baumann, be sure we’ve shaken the tree.”

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