Basketball England is threatening to strip the British Basketball League of its operating licence in a move that could see the organisation in its present form shut down – and its clubs endangered.

The governing body revealed it has set up a review committee to consider all options “including but not limited to a competitive tender process and negotiation with the existing licensee of the professional basketball league, with a view to renewing existing arrangements.”

It is understood the current licence, which has been virtually unchanged since the top flight was separated into a franchise-based entity in 1987, is due to expire in August – with the upheaval now likely to pose a major threat to its current commercial and sponsorship search.

“Basketball England is the guardian of basketball in the country and we are determined to see the sport reach its full potential here,” Jan Hagen, chairman of Basketball England, said in a statement. “Our singular objective is to see the licence awarded to the organisation with a deliverable plan most likely to take the sport to the next level.

“The committee will consist of two elected board members and two appointed, independent members. The committee will engage with interested parties as appropriate and make recommendations to the Board of Basketball England.

“While timescales will be short, the Board of Basketball England has to ensure that the arrangements for the professional league are in line with the aims and objectives of Basketball England and that the professional league is fully engaged with the governing body’s holistic approach to the sport in this country.”

BBL officials confirmed they had received no advance warning of Monday’s announcement which threatens to rip apart the fragile unity the sport has accomplished over the past 18 months.

Although MVP has learnt that BE officials first approached the BBL to confirm a review was being considered two weeks ago, the timing of the move will surprise many with the oversight of the professional league due to pass to the new British Basketball Federation from 2016 onwards.

It could see the running of the top tier put up for auction or handed to a for-profit foreign-based corporation, such as the long-lurking PLB (previously known as the BBA) who may now make their move to take control. Should that happen, there would appear to be no guarantee that the 13 existing teams would retain their place in a revamped firmament with the New York-based investment company’s blueprint involving setting up centrally-owned franchises from scratch.

“It is a power play,” said one senior BBL figure. “But it could cause a lot of damage to the league in the short-term. And it’s unclear if any of the Basketball England directors have any connections with another potential operator.”

The issue of altering the current premier division licence was previously discussed four years ago with former BBL chairman Kevin Routledge and England Basketball director Terry Donovan charged with exploring the terms of a contract which has seen the Sheffield-based organisation retain its role in player licensing by virtue of its position as a FIBA member.

However with EB undermined by a series of financial and administrative problems which led to the loss of a chunk of its funding from Sport England, the makeover was abandonned and the existing arrangements rolled over to 2016.

While it is theoretically possible that the existing BBL sides could call Basketball England’s bluff and run their league independently, regardless of the outcome, it is thought unlikely that FIBA would sanction such an arrangement.



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