Great Britain v FranceBritish basketball luminaries have lobbied Parliament once again in a bid to raise awareness of the sport and bend the ears of politicians in the wake of UK Sport’s decision to axe funding for Great Britain’s national teams.

An event was held on Speaker’s Green on Wednesday with MPs and peers, including Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, given a shot at the game by GB internationals Dan Clark, Georgia Jones and Azania Stewart.

The session was arranged in conjunction with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Basketball which has come out strongly against the move to withdraw Lottery money.

And GB women’s star Jo Leedham, currently with French club Bourges, believes the sport’s role has been under-played.

“For me, basketball is a chance to give focus and direction – especially when young people encounter challenges in everyday life,” she said. “It encourages discipline and structure, as well as being a precious outlet for releasing energy.

“Basketball did all of this for me while also being a means to develop my social and leadership skills. Basketball has given me opportunities and a life I could never have even imagined and without it, I really have no idea where I might have been today.”

The Westminster lobbying continues, even as British Basketball continues the cutbacks necessary to maintain its international programme, with a number of long-serving backroom staff understood to have relinquished their roles including senior women’s team manager Lucy Power.

Westminster balling (Courtesy: BBL)

Westminster balling (Courtesy: BBL)

However Kevin Routledge, vice-chairman of the BBL Foundation, has signaled that the fight for recognition will continue, with useful points made through Wednesday’s event.

“We had a lot of interest from MPs and Peers and it was an informative and fun afternoon,” he said.

“We want to get more of our lawmakers and decision makers to better understand the sport.

“It’s almost a unique position in our inner cities, particularly with the results of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Basketball Inquiry on the ability of basketball to make a difference to the social challenges of the inner cities and deprived communities. This is something due to be published in the next few weeks.”

Meanwhile speaking after the event, Sharon Hodgson MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Basketball, said, “It was great to see MPs from across the political spectrum come out and experience first-hand the fast paced action of basketball in these special surroundings and show their support for Team GB’s basketball squads in the lead up to the EuroBasket qualifiers this summer.

“Today’s showcase event has reaffirmed the continued relationship between Parliament and the basketball family, and our shared goal of realising the potential the sport has to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people, something we will highlight again in our upcoming report into basketball’s social impact in urban areas.”

Main photo: BB/Mansoor Ahmed

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