FEE THE BARRIER TO BBL AGREEMENT

British Basketball League chiefs remain confident of sealing a new operating license for the top flight.

With Leicester Riders and Newcastle Eagles rounding off the domestic campaign in Sunday’s BBL Playoff final at London’s 02 Arena, the current agreement is set to lapse despite several months of negotiations with the British Basketball Federation.

It is understood a ten-year contract to run the domestic league, replacing the existing loose arrangement, has been put on the table with stipulations that clubs must comply with tougher standards in areas such as venues, player welfare and youth development.

While some of those will phased in over a period of time, MVP has learnt the primary sticking point is the size of an annual fee to be paid by the league to the BBF in return for maintaining a franchise-based structure that has been in place since 1987.

But with relationships between the nascent governing body and the leading clubs at their best level in some time, there remains little apparent danger that the two parties will end up in a stalemate.

“It’s a long-term commitment we’re asking for,” said Newcastle Eagles chair Paul Blake. “And if we’re tied in for that length of time, it also has to be a good deal for them.

“But we are all trying to make it work which is very different to the past. Broadly speaking, we’ve got the same goals and the contract will tie us at the hip.”

Some European basketball federations work on receiving a flat sum each season from their national leagues while others are based on percentage of revenues.

Yet one BBL source described the original £ 1 million sum suggested by the British Basketball Federation as “if they were just throwing numbers out there” but it looks likely a compromise proposal – with a reduced figure – will be drafted in the coming week.

Although there are hopes a title sponsor can be secured, and a deal has been sealed with Barry Hearn’s Matchroom organisation for a lucrative pre-season tournament, most of the league’s 12 clubs are turning only a modest profit, at best, with excess funds reinvested rather than taken out.

Generating bundles of spare cash to distribute is, for now, beyond the wildest dreams of both the BBF and BBL.

The former’s board will meet again later this month to debate their next move with informal back and forth talks set to continue with the league in the interim.

“We all want to get that ten-year agreement signed,” said Glasgow Rocks owner Duncan Smillie. “I don’t think we’re a million miles away from it. But we’re hopeful we’ll get a number agreed very soon.”

The BBF declined comment.

Meanwhile it is thought the league will approach Matchroom with possible changes to its planned All Stars Basketball event in London amid criticism of some of the rules for the eight-team shootout.

With a number of coaches expressing concern, some pushback is likely on gimmicks such as a sin bin.

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