TALK OVER, SAYS WAINWRIGHT

Lisa Wainwright concedes that it is no longer about talk but action at the British Basketball Federation.

And after her appointment as interim chief executive earlier this week, we sat down and asks what the plans will be to make change happen.

So why the interim tag to start off with?

 The main reason is the board have realised, as a group of non-executive directors, that there’s a lot of work to be done. They’ve persuaded Sport England, from a governance perspective, to provide some funding for a few people to do the day-to-day tasks. It’s an award through to the end of March. I’d be delighted if it were longer if we can secure funding. But there may well be better people out there with better basketball knowledge to take on this job. If we secure funding at the end of March, which I hope we will do, then we’ll advertise again for the role which is the right thing to do.

What are the immediate challenges to confront and the immediate opportunities to take advantage of?

The key thing is I’m very new but I have worked at a number of sports: volleyball being one, netball being the other, similar team sports,” she said. “I really want to get the basics right, make sure the plan is ready and then secure investment to deliver that plan. It’s not complex what we need to do. The board have done a super job with the strategy to get us to where we are but now it’s about getting the basics right to move the sport forward.

With lessons learnt from working for Sport England and that sphere, should basketball persist rather than giving up in its fight to get proper funding from UK Sport?

It’s a really big challenge for the government. There isn’t a lot of money for all the sports that need funding and with the great successes of Rio, the challenge is going to be there to get the right levels of funding. That doesn’t mean we give up. There is always an opportunity for funding from both UK Sport and the home country sports councils but it is tough when the medal haul from Rio was so great.

What lessons might come from netball when, in England and increasingly in Scotland, they’ve leveraged their positioning as a face for women’s sport and seized the opportunities that come from it?

There’s a great opportunity. The one thing that netball did when I was there was to look at who the customers were. We didn’t sell netball. We sold sport to women, which is a very different approach. That’s a lesson we really can learn in the basketball community in the home countries – who is our key customer, who are the people interested and how do we target those opportunities? That’s what netball has done particularly well but I’m sure basketball can do the same.

There is now a governing body for Great Britain but also Scotland, England and Wales underneath in a confederation. For all this to work, and to sell the sport commercially, how important is it to have a single voice and a single brand?

It’s easier if there is one collective message. At British Volleyball it made it easier to sell. But some companies might want something separate. It depends what they want. A confederation model can work but it comes down to how people operate rather than the structure. What I hope is that we can collaborate because we’re all in this for the betterment of basketball. Regardless of boundaries, we should be able to get the right outcome and the right partners.

You will have to lay the groundwork for the revamp of the BBL licence. When Netball set up its Superleague, it was very much integrated into the sport’s strategy. How important is that integration for basketball’s development?

It’s critical for an athlete to know what pathway they’re working through. So a professional league is very critical. Netball developed that with the Superleague and it’s important we take into account the needs of the athletes so they get what they need from a competitive point of view.

How do you assess the unrealised potential?

The potential is phenomenal and I’ve felt that for many years. When I worked at netball and volleyball, basketball was the one sport I felt was under-tapped, especially among 14-18 year olds.

For the youth of today, it has such appeal. So from me sitting in that government side, it was a sport people wanted to back. I think the time is right with the new strategy to bring out that full potential. It has so many assets we can utilise.

It is a large task ahead…

We can all write a strategy. But now it’s time to deliver it.

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