36 million. That is the magic number which Basketball England officials are claiming is on the table from an un-named American investor in return for taking over the license to run the UK’s professional league.

The details have emerged as the review commission appointed to consider the future of the BBL – and the merits of any possible replacement – formally began their work on Tuesday with the three independent evaluators joining Jeff Jones and Mark Clark in an initial consultation exercise which is expected to be completed by the end of next week.

The proposed injection of cash would also provided capital to boost grassroots and the Great Britain national teams, Basketball England chairman Jan Hagen asserts, in a move that could prove transformational.

His pitch comes amid what is becoming a increasingly vociferous turf war between the BBL and Basketball England, who currently manage the rights to grant the operating license for any professional league before the responsibility is passed to a GB-wide body in 2016.

But to ignore the proposition in favour of waving through the status quo, would be a dereliction of duty, Hagen underlines.

“It’s an opportunity, nothing more than that,” he said. “There’s been no Machiavellian ploy to pull the license away from the BBL but the decision will not be made by me anyway. What we have said, as a board, is that if there an opportunity of genuine money coming into the game in this country, that will make us as a sport no longer fully reliant on government funding – and our elite teams fully reliant on UK Sport which we now know to be unpredictable – and Sport England funding which has to be spent on certain things we don’t want to spend it on because we just get told what to do with it.

“We want to have a strategy where basketball is being brought into primary schools and put a framework in place where we can start taking kids of six or seven and compete for their time with rugby and football and other sports, and then start competing in secondary school. We want to have a well-funded programme for coaches and officials. We want investment in facilities. And investment in the pro league where we can see players on decent salaries playing basketball every week, so the product becomes better. We want to see teams representing the UK in the Euroleague. We want to have funding in place where our elite teams can train properly with some of the players on a contract.

Jan Hagen (GBB)

“That’s not going to work with just £36 million but the interesting thing is that the investor sees it as initial seed funding. So all we have said is that, ok if that sort of money is on the table, then as a board we would be negligent not to look at it. So we’ve asked the BBL if they would be interested in working together potentially with this investor. The BBL’s response was to send a lawyer’s letter accusing us of selling off the licence, which I found disheartening.

“So we have now appointed an independent committee with capable names who will review the validity of the business plan sent to us by the American investor and the people they have. We will look at that, and also talk to the BBL about their plans to take the sport forward. It’s not a God-given right to have this license. We need to award it to whoever we believe can create a step change in the sport rather than standing still. If this particular proposition is not credible, then we’ll have to look elsewhere.”

With so much uncertainty and rumour about the evaluation process – and the admission of a conflict of interest involving three departed independent directors of Basketball England, Ameesh Manek, Andrew Ryan and Rick Boomgaard, and the current chief executive Huw Morgan, MVP asked Hagen for some background. Here are his replies with minor editing for clarity and brevity.

Where did this whole professional league review come about?

When Huw came in in November 2013, the bottom line was we gave him the task of coming up with a whole sport strategy, not just one for a National Governing Body. We went him to speak to all the stakeholders: BBF, BBL, others and to make presentations with them.

Sport England decided to cut the money for participation development. That was a change. We had to make people redundant because Sport England didn’t fund them any more. But they gave us money directly to allow Ameesh to not go back into the City and work with Huw full-time on a strategy document that would help bring the sport to a new level rather than being referred to as one of the worst leagues in Europe. And that’s what they were tasked to do.

When Huw presented to me in November (2014) that he had been approached – after putting a strategy document into the market place as an exercise, via a number of advisors, to find interested parties who might be interested in funding this. And an interested party came forward who wants to put significant money into the sport. They’re talking at initial seed funding of £36 million.

Why is this funding potentially to be funnelled through ‘BBall UK Naismith Ltd’, a private company set up by Huw Morgan and with Manek and Boomgaard listed as directors?

That has been taken out of context. Huw set up a company before he joined England Basketball for the simple reason that he is a paid director of Gloucester Rugby. And he needs to have a vehicle to invoice people. What has subsequently happened recently with the American investor is that they’ve said: ‘if we put money into the UK, we need to have a legal entity to put the money into.’ It can’t go into Basketball England because we don’t have share capital. So there has to be an entity. Huw already has one so they just renamed it.

It doesn’t mean the people involved would be directors or that Huw would be the 100% owner. His share would get diluted to 0.00001% when the money comes in or to zero. There is no personal gain for Huw as the sole shareholder. It is simply a vehicle to put the money.

Is there a justifiable claim that there has been a conflict of interest with members of the board of BE overseeing management while also being involved in a company which is looking at earning the license to run the premier league?

They have been on the board for the past 18 months. They are now directors of a shell company that isn’t doing anything. The company will only do anything if at some point – and it’s not mine or Huw or Ameesh or Rick’s decision – is if the pro license goes that company’s way. Then he would obviously have to resign from Basketball England.

Our lawyers have gone over it. The company did not originally get set up for this purpose. It was a dormant entity which is now being used.

Do you still see the new British Basketball Federation taking on the oversight of the professional game from BE from 2016?

Yes, absolutely. There have been discussions with FIBA Europe as well ands they are completely comfortable with this process.

It has been said the chief objective is getting basketball in the UK to speak with one voice – is that your understanding?

That is obviously the plan. The desired outcome is for the sport to be run much more by business people, rather than as a cottage industry as it is at the moment. We need serious heavyweight businesspeople running the sport. These four guys might well be part of that. But I don’t see them as the heavyweight business people. I see them as the catalysts for change, to attract people who can become part of this. It’s ludicrous to suggest that these four have never run a league before so why give it to them? They’re not going to run the league. That’s what they’re going to present to this independent committee.

I’m not allowed to attend those either because we want the committee to go through without any influence from anyone else and then come back with recommendations. They may well recommend for us to meet them. Or say it’s too far-fetched to contemplate and that we should renew the BBL licence for another year. Those are not my decisions.

What we have decided as a board is that we know the money is real. We’ve verified that there is an investor looking to put a minimum of £36 million into the sport, which for us would be ludicrous not to go to the nth degree and see what we can do about it.

Who will ultimately take the decision on the license?

The EB board. We are not legally mandated to go with the review committee’s recommendations but I would say I find it highly unlikely we would go against them.

Will the BBF board be consulted?

I don’t think so. They’re involved, they’re aware of it. They’ll have an input. Everyone can have their input. But I fully understand people don’t like change But I find it surreal people are happy with the level of basketball played in this country. I find it staggering the amount of vitriol. I’ve had many messages saying: ‘why didn’t you do this years ago?’

My understanding that this particular investor wants to work with existing franchises. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel. You just want to improve them. This should have been done years ago. But when I took over as chair, the only positive about England Basketball was that it had managed to build up a reserve. Other than that, it was a totally dysfunctional organisation, running a sport that was entirely fragmented.

We started by bringing in a CEO with a strategic mind to turn the sport around. At the end of November, we found an investor. It’s all gone very quick since then.

Will you await the appointment of new independent directors before any decision?

I don’t think so. We’re searching already for new independent directors but at this moment in time, I wouldn’t like to second-guess the recommendations of the review committee. They will now get stuck in and figure out what their recommendations would be. I would say the timescales would be tight for anybody to create a league for next season. But if that’s what the recommendation is, I would say it’s seen as possible.

These people on the independent committee are senior people and they make up for us losing some of our independent directors.

It is not about looking back. It is about who can help us going forward, to improve the sport from little kids, to the women’s game, to the national teams, to the pro league.

Will this investor provide capital for grassroots, the women’s game, etc.?

They believe that if they have a stake in the professional league that they should invest in all levels of the sport to create much more cohesion. So they have demonstrated in their plans that they want an investment throughout the game, not just targeted at the BBL.

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