It’s time for unity, not power grabs, Chris Egerton writes.

Back in November, my former employer British Basketball announced a new structure to take the game forward from 2016 onwards. It began the process by outlining the appointment of an independent chair and three non-executive directors.

Just one constituted board will have UK-level responsibilities including GB teams and oversight of any British league. About time too, I hear you cry. With so much to do, what should the priorities of the new board be? I have three suggestions:


Recent events suggest the concept of collaboration isn’t as common as you would think. But in a sport with a politically fractured history, it’s vital.

All current basketball authorities have to work together and build up the new single body (let’s call it Basketball UK for now). It should be the commercial powerhouse of the game and a benchmark for openness and transparency.

There should be no more hermetically sealed compartments within the sport. It would be wonderful to see British Basketball helping to promote participation, Basketball England doing more to promote GB games and all bodies, including any future pro league, combining to market the sport as a whole.

No one who has sat on the boards of British Basketball or the home nations will be allowed to stand for the new board. That follows current standard practice, but the obvious downside is that new directors will take more time to settle in, perhaps as much as 12 months.

There are three appointed positions on the board and here an exception should be made. Places should be awarded to current GB internationals – one representative from the women’s team and one from the men’s team. Their voices have not been heard for some time.

A role should also be found for Roger Moreland who, when plenty doubted, played a primary role in delivering a solution to national teams funding. He deserves the chance to help forge the new body and maintain the developing links now established within Government circles.


The new body must have a coherent, collaborative, long-term vision for basketball in the UK and by long-term, I’m talking about the next ten to fifteen years.

We have made strides in terms of our national teams’ performance and we shouldn’t belittle them, but when discussing the whole game, let’s agree a simple goal and deliver on it – the highest possible standards in every aspect.

Funding is vital. Of course it is. But we can all think of areas, where there’s so much we can do ourselves. When Basketball UK’s board and management are appointed, I would organise a one-day public conference where the game comes together as one. Light should be shone on all parts of the game. Nothing should be off the agenda and the board’s job here should be to listen.

This would lay out the groundwork, before a strategic review of coaching and playing standards. Under a small and expert group, it should provide an action plan, a series of objectives in the future and bring the whole game with it.


I find it baffling to see so much self-criticism of basketball in this country. It can be a good thing, but we need to have more confidence in the sport.

Few knew outside basketball before last summer that basketball was such a popular sport. Friends in my cricket and rugby circles were astounded to learn about the figures and it’s taken a Rugby World Cup to get that sport ahead of basketball in the latest Sport England participation figures.

Togetherness is key (BB/Ahmedphotos)

Togetherness is key (BB/Ahmedphotos)

There are strong points about basketball as well as a large number of areas we can improve in. So how do we sell it to the media and commercially?

A start is to understand who our audience is and then learn the lessons. You don’t need an external agency to do that or need to recruit externally.

There are plenty of resources within the sport already to the makings of a good commercial team – IF the sport collaborates. Basketball Scotland has the excellent Berta Galvez, Basketball England has conducted a comprehensive survey of British fans while all home nations, British Basketball and the BBL will have consumer data on those buying into the British game. I have no idea if this material is being shared in the greater good, but it’s essential and it should be. Staffing in a full-time Commercial Manager and Communications Manager at GB level is also on the must-have list, even if resources are shifted from the playing budget.

A multi-season TV contract to show club and international games is the holy grail and would do wonders for commercial opportunities. It’s not impossible either. While Sky are trying to boost their minority sports coverage (handball, badminton and netball on regularly in recent weeks), BT Sport may be looking for something similar. There won’t be massive amounts of cash to raise from rights fees but commercial revenue would flow.

Again, collaboration is the key in contrast to Basketball England’s review of the BBL licence. A collaborative approach might have involved a 2 year licence in which specific, targeted, tough and measurable objectives were set. Other alternatives would then have time to plan their potential licences.

Everyone wants a stronger and more commercially successful British league and that need not be the BBL in the long term. But, given the hamfisted attempt to take over British Basketball last year and its inability to lift restrictions on Sport England funding, the suspicion is that Basketball England is more interested in shoring up its powerbase than serving the wider game.

With just twelve months before the new body takes over – and four months before the end of the season – why does EB need to do this now?


A bigger problem in my eyes should be addressed first. Political momentum has been built up to help the national teams, but a coherent, cohesive plan for improve elite and grassroots facilities could secure a range of funding options. Most other sports access these funds and basketball should do the same.

Leicester Riders’ new venue is a great example that can be replicated up and down the country with local support. Worcester’s University Arena is excellent too. If we combine efforts, we can establish a nationwide bedrock for the improvement of basketball on similar lines across the country.

The Barking Abbey Academy is doing great things but it’s the only hub of its kind in the country and think what basketball could do with more of them. With seedcorn funding, we should push on and complete the rest of the project laid down in previous British Basketball objectives.

With firm criteria for the use of what funding is available and managed by a Performance Director, we can build facilities which can herald a seachange in coaching and playing standards

In broad detail, this should involve:

i. The seeking of funding at local and national level to establish three to four other arenas. Here the cream of the British game could come and play in facilities worthy of their talents. It gives empty and better seats for the fans to enjoy their basketball.

ii. These will provide better facilities for not just pro clubs but the sort of performance hubs the British game needs to broaden its playing base and improve standards. Make them FIBA-compliant in all respects. Make them the sort of facilities kids, coaches, players and broadcasters want to go to.

iii. In time and with the right level of funding/sponsorship, can these arenas sustain a national age group league played at weekend to improve competitive standards and a wider pool for the national team coaches to select from?

And beyond that, how about showing our GB internationals some love? What can we do during the club season to boost their preparation for summer internationals?

There are examples in other sports which could be applied. I would welcome the thoughts of players and coaches on how this could be made to work – but why does there have to be a conflict between club and country?

· Can full-time specialist GB staff in conditioning & skills, etc work with the players during the club season, without interfering with the clubs?

· Could this tied into a series of top-up central contracts to encourage players to stay within the British system for longer?

· Instead of BBL teams being nearly bankrupted to play in the EuroCup, could a GB team – made up of the best young talents in the country – be formed to play instead?

There is so much that can be done. Cut the backbiting and get on with it.

Chris Egerton is a journalist and broadcaster who was formerly in charge of media at British Basketball – Follow him @EgertonSport

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