DEAL CLOSE FOR UNITY, REVEALS SPICE

British Basketball performance director Chris Spice is confident that a deal will be signed off to allow England and Scotland to combine forces and field a single Great Britain team after the Olympics, despite the objections of the Welsh.

Senior figures from the world governing body FIBA are expected to hold talks this weekend with representatives from Basketball Scotland and England Basketball to approve an agreement that would see them merge from 2016 onwards, while retaining some autonomy over certain grassroots areas.

The proposal was complicated when Basketball Wales opted out of joining forces in June. But with the sport keen to build on promising performances from GB’s men and women at London 2012, it is thought that FIBA will give the green light for the two home nations to go it alone and set up a stronger governing body.

“We’re just about there,” Spice revealed. “I think FIBA are pretty happy with what we’ve done. I think they’ll get us over the line. I’m pretty confident Britain will go forward as Britain in whatever guise that is because we’re not big enough to go it alone.

“But we need a structure that goes from development to the top, where players as Under-16 level do need to be playing at GB level so that we can start to get success and be on the world stage at under-age level, as well as getting into world championships with our senior team. You have to start from the bottom up. But we had to start from the top down, we had no choice because unless you have a shop window, you get no funding. Now is the time to build from the bottom up.”

Once the housekeeping is done, Spice will focus his attention on finding a replacement for men’s coach Chris Finch, who is stepping down after guiding GB to their first win since 1948. But an attempt will be made to retain the services of women’s coach Tom Maher through to 2016.

“Tom is world class and the women’s programme has gone from strength to strength and leaps and bounds since his involvement,” Spice said. “There’s no doubt that once we decide on the structure, that the first person I’ll be talking to his Tom.”

Spice’s own future is also unclear. He is under contract until next spring. By then he, and whichever organisation is then in charge, must have secured the financial future of British Basketball.

Results in London will neither help nor hinder the cause. The Australian is confident that UK Sport will continue to look favourably on the sport’s intentions.

“Each time we go in, we talk about the programme,” he said. “It’s certainly been my view and message that we went in with in 2008 was two things: if you’re going to invest in us, give us enough money to make a different and invest in us for the long term.

“We weren’t necessarily about getting results in this Olympics. The long-term goal was always qualify one or both teams for 2016. That’s the best legacy we could leave behind and that’s absolutely still achievable. That’s the message I’ll be going with to UK Sport..”

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