LICENCE PAVES WAY FOR FRESH START

A new era for British basketball has been promised after a deal was concluded to overhaul the domestic league.

The hammer blow of losing UK Sport funding in 2013 in the wake of the agency’s evaluation that Great Britain could not achieve an Olympic medal has not been softened by an inability to capitalise on the sport’s undoubted popularity at a grassroots level by the existing British Basketball League and its member clubs.

With their current ten-year operating license for the BBL expiring at the close of last season, negotiations between it and the British Basketball Federation over a renewal have centred around imposing more stringent standards across a number of areas of concern, including player development, venues and corporate governance.

An agreement has now been unveiled that will run from the start of the new campaign and see the 12 teams paying an annual fee to the governing body that will contribute towards running the various national sides as well as plotting a more coherent structure from top to bottom.

It has been confirmed that an independent board will be established with representatives from both the BBF, BBL and non-affiliated members with the power to impose sanctions, including expulsion, on clubs or individuals who fall foul of the tougher rules. “No longer will teams be judge and jury on themselves,” confirmed one source. “It will control accountability with targets set over periods of four, seven and ten years.”

There is an aim to expand to 20-24 teams in the future while it has been mandated that the fees will rise in tandem with any growth in revenues, with the league looking to expand its current TV deal beyond digital coverage on the BBC and an online subscription service with media company Perform.

Although the federation receives some monies from Sport England, it will also step up its search for other revenues in tandem with a BBC deal that begins with Saturday’s friendly between Great Britain and Greece in London.

While the sum agreed with the clubs is significantly less than originally demanded, the overall bargain struck can make a difference, BBF chief executive Lisa Wainwright believes.

“The league has shown real maturity in looking at standards to develop themselves,” she said. “It’s hard. They’re working flat out with not a huge amount of media. They’ve thought incredibly hard about what the steps are to lift the sport.

“I’m happy with the standards in there for stronger governance which the sport needs in terms of where the business is moving. I’d love more money to come into British Basketball because we need it. But there is a common sense and a reality check that the clubs need to put funds back into the league. So it’s been a pragmatic solution.”

The BBF – whose senior men’s side will feature at next month’s EuroBasket finals in Istanbul – was among a number of sports bodies which recently called on UK Sport to reverse its elitist Lottery funding policy that solely focused on achieving medals at Olympic and Paralympic level.

But the BBL has tied itself much more closely into igniting a growth spurt that can help make basketball much more self-sustaining.

The demands are wide-ranging, however, according to the league.

Player Welfare Remuneration

Minimum salary level introduced, with requirements on individual player payments and average squad salary

Each club to have contracted access to specialist physiotherapy and urgent care, with physiotherapist for all training sessions and games

Community & Player Pathways

Minimum of four under-age teams in local and national competitions, two of which should be female Each club to establish partnership with a university and a college academy
Each club to invest at least £75,000 per annum into their player pathway

Venues (Within defined periods)
Each venue to have a wooden, clean court

Each club to be long-term anchor tenants at their chosen venue

Capacity to be increased over the medium and longer term

Commercial

Targets set on turnover, season tickets and corporate hospitality facilities

“We are absolutely delighted to reach this ground breaking deal with the BBF,” BBL chairman Sir Rodney Walker said. “The BBL clubs are all committed to growing the game, improving the fan experience, and raising standards, and this licence provides a robust framework within which to make those developments.

“It has taken some considerable time to get this agreement negotiated, but we are all confident it will provide the game with a solid platform to grow the professional men’s club game in the UK.”

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