LINE DRAWN IN SAND FOR BASKETBALL ENGLAND

Basketball England has pledged to seek real improvements after a wave of criticism of the organisation.

Almost entirely justified, a senior director concedes.

We are holding our hands up, says John Letizia, with the governing body’s board set to undertake a forensic review of every aspect of how things have been run (terribly), what can be done better (lots) and what needs to change (likewise).

The quarter-million pounds which MVP revealed had been spent last year on its website – thought to be the consequence of a legacy contract – was just one area of concern.

Elevated costs and the long-term absence of chief executive Stewart Kellock have raised doubts over the level of oversight provided.

Hence, putting the right procedures and safety nets to get Basketball England back on track have been marked as an immediate priority, Letizia confirmed, following a recent Annual General Meeting that noted the dissent.

“It’s clear from the questions submitted there is a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “There were queries about the direction that Basketball England is taking and concerns over where the money has been spent.

“They’re all valid questions, about the website, about running costs and we need to approach them in a proper way that’s more robust.

“It’s clear Basketball England needs to have robust processes in place in terms of signing contracts and how the money is spent. Money is tight. So what there is should be spent as far as possible on the sport rather than administration.”

Letizia: driving reform

It could get worse before it gets better with the costs of moving the body to Manchester – and the staff costs incurred – set to appear in next year’s accounts.

Kellock has now made a partial return to work following six months off with a stress-related illness but during his hiatus, a number of key development initiatives languished in an abyss and the catching-up process could take months, if not longer to complete.

Restoring respectability, likewise, for a organisation that was battered only two years ago by an attempted but abortive takeover of the BBL licence that forced half the board, plus its previous CEO, to resign.

“There is no hiding that there has been problems with oversight at Basketball England and England Basketball over a number of years,” Letizia, a long-respected referee admitted.

“Where some of the items of expenditure were questionable and where members of the board acted could also be said to have acted questionably. It is not our money. It is Sport England’s money. It is the members’ money. The oversight needs to be stronger.”

The membership will be more involved, he promised, with the AGM – held this month in Manchester, in front of minimal attendance, during a busy basketball weekend – set to be switched to the summer so that more representatives can seek and receive answers.

But with cuts expected in government investment into sport set to accelerate, it is likely that the way in which Basketball England, its home nation counterparts, and the British Basketball Federation interact and seek economies of scale will come under detailed scrutiny with pressure to do more with less.

Inevitably that, Letizia signals, will mean every pound going to the spot it needs to.

“We have to be accountable on every decision and more transparent,” he underlined.

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