FIBA is demanding greater co-operation, and even a potential merger, between the home nations in return for an Olympic place. England and Scotland have flexed their muscles on and off the court. But what of the third, often-forgotten, party: the Welsh?


Their counterparts have won visibility for the players they supply to the flagship Great Britain’s men team. Likewise, in Terry Donovan and Bill McInnes, England and Scotland will be represented among the powerbrokers of UK hoops this weekend in Lyon when FIBA determines our fate.

In Wales, eyes will be focused on whether their rugby-playing titans can see off the Irish or if the challenge of Cardiff and Swansea to reach the Premier League can be sustained. Basketball has never been prominent here, save for the brief run which the women of Rhondda Rebels enjoyed in the spotlight before they tumbled off the map.

There has been much talk about whether Basketball Wales might simply be subsumed into a GB-wide structure to secure FIBA’s approval. Such chatter might be premature, hints the governing body’s president Will Jones.

“We haven’t had internal debates about that,” he states. “Our focus has been on the Olympics. If we’d lost that focus, and been going: ‘what are we going to do?’ then we’d lose sight of the future. Everyone’s got an open mind but we’re thinking about Britain. Because let’s face it, it would be a farce if we had a Games without GB.”

The dossier, which has been submitted to FIBA ahead of this week’s board meeting, is the by-product of discussions between the three home nations. Under their umbrella body, the British Basketball Federation, assurances have been put forward to demonstrate a legacy for the sport post-2012.

There has been no appetite, Jones reveals, to step back to complete separation. Retaining a single British team has been paramount. Yet Wales, like Scotland, continues to have its own senior sides. While England join both in entering junior squads in European competition. Those peculiar anomalies have not gone unnoticed

Geopolitics have come into play. Even though the GB set up is backed by performance funding from UK Sport, each of the trio receives its core support from the three distinct Sports Councils. To justify the continuance of that cash, there is inherent pressure to remain separate rather than unite.

In Scotland – given the extreme political will to avoid any involvement in a British football team at the Olympics – the issue of ‘national’ identity is at its strongest. In Wales, the potato is not as hot. That, Jones admits, may be because basketball is not on the radar of the Assembly Members or the nationalist advocates. Nor have the potential effects in a change of status been raised.

“It’s hard enough having dialogue with the Sports Council about what we need,” he said.

“It comes down to the standing and acceptance of basketball and what will come from the Olympics. Because I do believe that some Sports Councils – and I don’t mean England and Scotland here – don’t realise how big and how important a sport basketball is.

“So my hope if that if Britain do well, with the men and the women, that spin-off will come to us, I hope, that acceptance.”

Wales, so long basketball’s backwater, has suffered from a lack of investment and a shortage of icons. However there is now a 15-team men’s national league and a healthy centre of excellence for the women’s game at UWIC.

The Welsh international sides remain out of sight, struggling at the foot of the European pyramid. Even against their fellow ‘minnows’, they have made minimal impact.

The objective, Jones underlines, is to give younger prospects any available opportunity to compete at a higher level outside the Principality. Yet it remains to be seen what view FIBA Europe will take on their future entry once Sunday’s machinations in Lyon are complete.

For now though, it remains business as usual.

“We’re looking at what will happen at the moment rather than the possibilities of what may or may not occur in the future,” Jones adds.

“Benefits? I don’t know. The great thing about British basketball at the moment is that, if we’re in the Olympics, everyone will benefit from the wider exposure that basketball will get across the UK.”

Nowhere do they need it more than in Wales. Independent or included, Olympics or otherwise, there is still so much work to do to get the country to play ball.



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