BAUMANN ADVANCES CALL FOR BASKETBALL UNITY

FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann has called for basketball’s three domestic governing bodies to ‘think the unthinkable’ and sign up to a single British national team.

England Basketball, along with its counterparts in Scotland and Wales, has until next June to decide whether to merge into a single governing body and, with it, give up the right of the three home nations to compete separately on the international stage.

And Baumann, who presided over the vote last month by FIBA’s board which saw Team GB granted an automatic place at the 2012 Olympics, believes the controversial idea is the only way that the sport can progress.

“If you look at the history books, it stands out that England, Scotland and Wales have participated only a few times in major international basketball competitions – both at senior and junior levels,” he said.

“Since they came together around 2005-2006 and started playing as Great Britain, they have gone from strength to strength, qualifying for EuroBasket tournaments and showing they can compete with some of the best teams.

“If they disband, it most likely will be a step backwards. They would be going back to the way things were for so many years when they rarely appeared in our competitions.”

MVP revealed last month that outline talks on a merger between the British Basketball League and the performance-driven British Basketball have already been held.

Joined-up thinking, Baumann states, must be part of a process to raise the level of the BBL and drive the domestic sport forward.

And the Swiss powerbroker believes it is critical that the strategy see clubs entering European competitions on an annual basis for the first time in over a decade.

“I think that the British Basketball League needs somehow to support whatever strategy is put forward by the British basketball family and adjust whatever is needed in order to get competitive,” he said.

“For many years, the Euroleague and FIBA Europe have looked to have British clubs that participate regularly at the international club competition level,” Baumann recalled.

“Regrettably, that is not yet a given or something that happens on a regular basis and therefore does not allow for a regular comparison between the British clubs and clubs in the rest of Europe.”

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