The bulk of British Basketball’s board has, as expected, resigned in the wake of the power struggle with home nations.

It came less than 24 hours after the governing body was stripped of much of its remit in a coup carried out by Basketball England, Scotland and Wales during a dramatic 90-minute spell in London in a move they say is aimed at “balancing the budget.”

Ed Warner, now the outgoing Chair, has been joined by his fellow independent directors, Mark Clark, Sadie Mason, John Zerafa, Andrew Billingham, Andrew Borrie and Emir Feisa in quitting their posts, leaving only the home country representatives in situ.

“Following yesterday’s peremptory, unconstitutional actions by the HCA chairs, my six independent director colleagues and I have decided today to resign from the board of British Basketball with immediate effect,” Warner said.

“In the seven weeks in which I have been with British Basketball, working with my fellow directors and the staff to find a collaborative solution to the financial challenges facing the sport, I have repeatedly encountered intransigence and aggression from the chairs of the Home Countries.

“I cannot in all conscience lead an organisation whose three members are so unwilling to work collectively, so devoid of ambition for the sport, so full of disdain for Great Britain players and, as evidenced by their actions yesterday, so apparently lacking in professional integrity.

“I have written to the Minister for Sport to thank her for the generous financial lifeline that she recently extended to basketball, and to apologise that the opportunity this clearly presented to create a vibrant future for GB teams at all age groups appears to have been wilfully squandered for reasons that remain entirely unclear. I extend that apology to every one of the basketball family in Great Britain, players, coaches, officials and fans alike.

“It is now for the many members of Basketball England, Scotland and Wales to ask themselves whether the leaders of the organisations they belong to are fit for purpose to lead this great game.”

The breakdown of attempts to reach a consensual solution to the question of where the sport goes next has come in for criticism from UK Sport who had set a deadline of next week to sort out the internal politics plaguing a process to find a sustainable way to govern basketball and fund the Great Britain teams and were dialled into the scheduled meeting on Thursday which was abruptly cancelled when an EGM of the federation was called.

The agency is still likely to hand over the £305,000 outstanding of a half-million Treasury grant to the realigned BBF which will now come under the control of the home country associations.

But the backlash against the perceived lack of unity and ambition could come when, as anticipated, sports like basketball are given the chance of Lottery funding after 2020.

And UK Sport’s chief executive Liz Nicholl is among many who are unimpressed with the scenario which has evolved.

“It is very disappointing that the parties responsible for British Basketball were unable to reach collective agreement on the governance and the future financial sustainability of the sport,” she said.

“In May, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) confirmed a one-off, exceptional, investment to be routed through UK Sport to enable GB athletes to compete in important World Cup qualifying games.

“An investment of £195,000 was provided to British Basketball to cover costs for their athletes’ June and July fixtures. A further £305,000 remains ring-fenced to enable the GB men’s and women’s senior teams to fulfil international commitments in 2018/19.

“This will only be released if British Basketball and the home country associations can work together to find a sustainable financial and governance plan to support its athletes going forward.

“We are aware that some formal changes have been made through an Extraordinary General Meeting. We await further details and hope for rapid progress.”

Home nations put case

The home nations released an explanatory statement on Friday afternoon following a wave of rebukes for a lack of transparency, claiming their focus would now be “on getting GB teams on court and reducing management overheads as we work to develop the sport.”

It said: “At the heart of discussions has been one central question: should we financially damage community basketball that is the lifeblood of our sport and that offers hope and opportunity to thousands of young people, in the hope of achieving success at GB level.

“Throughout this process, the associations of England, Scotland and Waleshave been united in their belief that success at GB level will only occur with strong HCAs, with effective pathways through to the senior teams, and with an acceptance that we are not an affluent sport at this time and need to cut our cloth accordingly. However, we believe that being pragmatic does not stop us from being ambitious for the sport we love.

“We are acutely conscious that making the necessary cuts will be difficult in the short term. However, our priority in balancing the budget will be to keep players on court above all else, including working to ensure that we are able to field strong under–20s GB teams.

“We believe that we need to work within our means and make sure that our resources are allocated to the community game, as well as the talent system. We believe that strong relationships within the game will be the foundation for strong and sustainable national teams, both on and off the court.”

One board member of BE, speaking on condition of anonymity, told MVP: “We need to have a sensible plan that doesn’t leave Basketball England footing the bill for GB teams.

“We get money from Sport England to look after the grassroots. We can’t be seen to spend it on the elite.”

Pic: Mansoor Ahmed

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