REBELS WILL MAKE VOICE HEARD

Plans have emerged for a renewed attempt to wrestle control of Basketball England away from its current board.

It comes ahead of its Annual General Meeting in Manchester this weekend with a group of rebel clubs understood to have solicited proxy votes from sympathetic allies to challenge the governing body’s present leadership.

Their drive to oust the present chair Clare Wardle – and, potentially, chief executive Stewart Kellett – has been accelerated by the denial of a motion of no-confidence in the former which had been proposed for the AGM. It has subsequently been alleged that the blocking manoeuvre was itself unconstitutional.

That assault was stoked by what many claim is a widespread state of unhappiness with the management and oversight of Basketball England, a criticism emboldened due to the organisation’s role in a messy home nations takeover of the British Basketball Federation and the subsequent resignation of BE director Grace Jacca over what is said to be her personal unhappiness at the transparency of the decision-making processes in place.

Although the no-confidence motion cannot be re-admitted onto the agenda for the AGM, a campaign has emerged to vote down proposed changes in Basketball England’s own articles of association which, it is argued, would place more power in the hands of its management and less in the grasp of its members and clubs.

Should the rebellious cluster be successful, that would pave the way for an Extraordinary General Meeting to be convened later this year to oust the current regime.

“The main thing we’ve wanted to do is avoid all the politics,” said Leicester Riders managing director Russell Levenston who, along with Sheffield Hatters’ matriarch Betty Codona, is set to be the recipient of many of the proxy votes.

“The more you look into things, the worse the sport looks and it won’t change until there is the right governance and leadership. But the basketball community needs to step up and show we care.

“Everyone who wants to have a say needs to have a say. Basketball people are renowned for sitting on their hands. They can’t do that here. People need to understand they have a role to play as members. If nothing changes, then everything will continue as it is now.”

How the governance of Basketball England, and its senior management, has been carried out is likely to be a focus of enquiry and debate at the AGM, especially over the performance of Kellett since he took over the CEO role at the start of 2016.

The ex-British Cycling executive is, senior sources confirm, presently midway through an evaluation period overseen by board member John Letizia. That is understood to have followed discussions from within the board over his removal, a move ultimately resisted by Wardle and others.

“The Board agreed in accordance with good management practice to give the CEO additional objectives and measure his performance against them,” a statement confirmed.

Sport England, whose position as Basketball England’s largest funder places them in a position of further oversight, have maintained that they have no current issues with how the Manchester-based body is being run despite last year’s disclosures of heavy spending on a website revamp and payments to directors.

Following a Freedom of Information submission lodged by MVP, the government quango revealed that no minutes of any meetings between the two bodies between January 2016 and April 2018 were ever taken.

Yet despite requests for full disclosure, Sport England’s lawyers have either redacted or blocked the release of correspondence relating to oversight, its action plans or its financial and funding practices, claiming “it would be likely to have a detrimental impact of Basketball England’s business planning processes and ability to secure funding in the future.”

However a deadline, according to one email obtained, was imposed in March 2017 for BE to comply with the Code for Sports Governance. That it has not produced board meeting minutes on a timely basis is a violation of the good practice now demanded of governing bodies by Sport England.

More surprisingly, an email from November 2016 between Smith and Kellett reveals that Basketball England was placed in touch with the chief executive of England Hockey Sally Munday to discuss hockey’s model for running Great Britain teams.

This is now the framework which the home nations proposed to implement following their takeover of the BBF. It was previously claimed Basketball England fully supported the independent federal model which was agreed prior to 2012.

It adds to the issues which are set to make Saturday’s AGM in Manchester one of the most fractious in its 77-year history.

“The sport is very frustrated with the lack of transparency and the quality of leadership in place,” Levenston acknowledged.

“We’ve had three directors effectively resign over it: John Wells, Melissa Hague and Grace. It’s been bad governance and bad communication.”

Regardless of the outcome, the grouping intends to work on its own common interests.

“We will look at setting up a clubs union,” he added. “That’s something that’s needed because people come in and out while the clubs remain the heartbeat of the sport and we’re the ones generating players. We should have more of a say.”

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