Great Britain captain Drew Sullivan has accused FIBA of playing games with British basketball ahead of the decision on whether the hosts should be granted an automatic place at the 2012 Olympic Games.


Domestic chiefs are continuing to lobby the 22 board members of the sport’s governing body who will vote on the issue in Lyon on Sunday, having submitted a dossier detailing the potential benefits of handing a spot to both the men’s and women’s national sides.

However Sullivan fears that Britain’s hopes could suffer from a perceived lack of progress in basketball’s grassroots development. And if the plan were rejected, the two teams would face the arduous prospect of winning a berth through this summer’s European Championships.

“It would be pretty devastating if we don’t get it,” said the Mersey Tigers forward.

“I feel, from what I understand, that every summer FIBA has added another target. We’ve met that. Then they’ve added something else again. So it would be extremely frustrating.

“Personally, I’d be very disappointed if we weren’t to get an automatic bid. But we’ve met every challenge they’ve put in front of us. If, for some bizarre reason we don’t get it, we’ll go out and try and meet that challenge as well.”

FIBA’s demands have focused on ensuring that there is an enduring legacy from any British involvement at London 2012, demanding assurances that the three home nations forge even closer links to grow the sport to the same level of popularity it enjoys elsewhere in Europe. 

Progress, insists Great Britain men’s coach Chris Finch, has already been made. “And I’m sure that a lot of lessons have been learnt in the process,” he said. “Given a blank slate and a blank chequebook, they’d know exactly the path to take.

“The game, whether it’s the developmental game or the professional game or the international game, is trying to find its way still but doing better than it has in a while. When the BBL was its all-time high, the international game wasn’t. So we need the grassroots, the league and the national teams all moving upwardly.”

The players are waiting to learn whether enough has been done. From playing in front of 1800 at Meadowbank to an audience of millions in Eurobasket 2009, they have travelled far in five years. The greatest stage is tantalisingly close.

“It would be great,” said Sullivan. “Getting a place would validate all the hard work we’ve put in since 2006. Making the Olympics, has been the focal point. That’s what we’ve been working to. For us to get an automatic bid would be a relief as well.

“But we understand that it’s a little bit out of our control. Someone else decides that. We just have to go about our business and get ready for the summer, regardless of what happens.”


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