FUNDING GAP HINDERS EUROPEAN AMBITIONS

British Basketball League chairman Paul Blake has admitted that the country’s leading clubs face a herculean task to challenge for European trophies due to a lack of funding on home soil.

A number of teams have looked at playing in one of the continental competitions but pulled back because of high costs involved.

Governing body FIBA has criticised the stance which has left the UK as one of the few nations to opt out. However Blake – who has put Newcastle Eagles foreign ambitions on ice amid a budgetary squeeze – has completed a fact-finding mission to assess just how the numbers stack up.

And he was stunned to find out the levels of backing given to their potential overseas rivals.

“In LEB Gold (Spain’s second division), the clubs get €650,000 from their local council and €250,000 from the regional government,” Blake said.

“That’s just to play games, not for any community programmes. They also get free use of a council-owned arena for themselves and their academy teams. Outside of that, all their other commercial revenues – gate money, sponsorship, etc. – are the same as ours.

Newcastle's Euro ambitions are on hold

“The next club down the road gets €2m from their council for basketball and €8.5m goes to the football club. That’s what we’re competing against. Nothing in our culture here suggests we would get that, we’re not expecting it and we’re not asking for it.”

There must be, Blake argues, a concerted effort to improve buildings around the league. The way forward is medium-sized centres, rather than large scale arenas, with a number of clubs – including Cheshire and Leicester – actively looking to move into bigger and better premises in the coming years which would be tailored to their needs.

Small is not beautiful, Blake underlines. “When you only have 750 seats for games, you can’t grow so what can you do? It limits your motivation.

“The whole thing, the commercial agenda for the league and the aspirations to play in European competition are very pivotal. But for us to do that in the future, as a group of clubs we have to get into better facilities.

“A few teams are already down that road through their own initiatives. You have the Rocks moving into a new council-run arena in 2013. But there needs to be a strategic drive to drive facilities.”

Blake also confirmed that the BBL is in talks with Sky Sports to broadcast regular games next season in an improved slot.

“We’re in discussions,” he confirmed.

“We’d like to go live. That’s the plan and the ambition. It’s being discussed and we hope to have an answer in August.”

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