An attempt to remove Clare Wardle as chair of Basketball England has been blocked by the governing body’s board.

A special resolution had been drafted up by a rebel group of clubs, led by Sheffield Hatters’ Betty Codona, which would have effectively placed a vote of no confidence in Wardle, who has resisted calls for her to step down for her role in forcing a mass wave of resignations from the British Basketball Federation and over what is understood to be concerns over her oversight of BE’s chief executive Stewart Kellett.

Past England international and Basketball Scotland CEO Sadie Mason was identified as the likely candidate to become interim chair should the motion have been passed at the body’s forthcoming Annual General Meeting. Existing BBL chair Sir Rodney Walker was also thought to have been suggested as an alternative by Sport England if Wardle had resigned.

The resolution read as follows:

We the undersigned, as Members of the Association who on the date of this statement, hereby request, that the proposed resolution attached is to be dealt with at the upcoming AGM on the 1 September 2018.

Please give a copy of this statement and the proposed resolution to the members at the same time that notice of the meeting is given (at least 28 days in advance, so on or before 3 August 2018). You should also send this to the individual in question, who shall be afforded the right to protest against their removal in accordance with Section 169 of the Companies Act 2006.

The reasons for our requests are:

This includes reasons why the membership requires the following resolutions to be voted on and why there is good reason for the named directors to be removed from office.

The reasonable belief of the undersigned voting members of the Association that the chair of the Association has:

– Failed to provide the membership with full, ethical and transparent disclosure of plans for the sport, strategic and operational plans- including those with key stakeholders, financial clarity and disclosure in good time.

– Failed to follow the process for elected board members as stated in the Associations Articles of Association.

– Failed to deliver significant improvement of the Association, the Women’s game and maintain appropriate financial reserves.

– Failed to maintain consistent leadership and management of and from Senior Leadership and the Chief Executive of the Association in the face of mounting criticism by the membership of the Association.

– Maintained a lack of sufficient progress in development of the sport at all levels.

– Acted unethically in the way the Board and Association has conducted business.

– Not followed appropriate governance measures within the Board when making crucial business and strategic decisions for the Association.

As there is a requirement under Article 28 of the Association’s Articles of Association that the Board shall consist of no less than six (6) Directors, it is proposed to appoint a number of interim Directors, to ensure that the day-to-day business and ensure the quorum for such business can take place.

It is proposed that any additional Directors required to meet these requirements, shall be named following the passing of this Special Resolution and also on an interim basis, until such time the Association is in a position to appoint the additional number of Directors as set out in Article 29, if a deficit should exist.

However the resolution will not go forward to Basketball England’s AGM in Manchester on September 1 due to what one existing board member told MVP was “a lack of sufficient signatures” to comply with regulations.

A clarification statement issued to Hoopsfix by BE read: “Basketball England did receive a request on Friday 3 August 2018 signed by 13 people, not all of which were entitled to vote, for a resolution to be put to the AGM to replace the current Chair.

“This fell short of the requirements for a members resolution to be put to the AGM. However, this was taken very seriously and stakeholders consulted. The regional chairs and the Board unanimously supported the current Chair. The members have been offered a meeting to discuss their concerns.”

It mirrors a statement issued by BE earlier this month where Wardle claimed to have the “unanimous support” of her own board and regional chairs.

However MVP has learnt that Grace Jacca, the most virulent critique of the current regime, brought an early end to her term as a BE director by resigning last weekend in protest at what has been perceived as myriad flaws in governance. Other existing directors have privately expressed their opposition to a flurry of actions including a home nations takeover of the BBF which, in itself, also transgressed that organisation’s articles of association.

“I am just fed up of basketball losing out time after time,” said Codona. “We’ve not sat down for a discussion and thought about the damage this board has done and how much money has gone to independent directors.

“I’m also told there was money which Basketball England could have applied for to Sport England to support the GB junior teams but they didn’t. Other people have told me they have contacted Clare Wardle about the incompetence of the way things are being run. But everyone is fed up about being fobbed off.”

The controversy over the upcoming AGM could spill over into other directions. MVP has been told of claims that at least two candidates from within domestic basketball were blocked from standing for board elections after a pre-vetting process which determined they did “not fulfil a skills matrix”. A number of vacancies are due to be filled.

Other Basketball England member clubs have indicated that they were willing to support the resolution and may take their fight to the AGM. One board member told MVP “I think if people feel very strongly about it, and of course they do, they should get the necessary numbers and call for a resolution at another time.”

At least one prominent BBL club has made public their discontent at the way BE is being run.

“The basketball community is very disappointed with the lack clarity, governance and equality that Basketball England are showing to its membership,” Leicester Riders CEO Russell Levenston told Hoopsfix. “Our sport has been brought into disrepute too many times and our current leadership has done it again.

“It’s time for the basketball community to stand up together and say enough is enough. Our sport isn’t going any where fast and we have gone backwards in areas over the last few years.”

Additionally, MVP has seen a strongly-worded email exchange between Wardle and Loraine Gayle of WBBL club Sheffield Hatters which criticises the lack of transparency over how BE is being run and the role of Sport England in backing the organisation following a meeting between the pair and Wardle’s fellow director Nicky Shaw.

In a correspondence dated 15 May, Wardle – who has declined comment when contacted on multiple occasions by MVP –  responded to a number of questions put by Gayle and insisted that BE has been appropriately overseen. The Coca Cola UK company secretary said: “(I) can confirm there are clear financial controls and procedures in place, including appropriate sign offs for expenditure at all levels of the organisation.  We are also bound to publish accounts which are externally audited and because we receive grant funding, Sport England also has an external audit process.  As a member you can have every confidence that we operate with financial rigour.”

Basketball England has failed to publish minutes of its board meetings this year, despite being required to do so.

Gayle replied this month, alleging Wardle had shown “little honesty or transparency” during their discussions. “Clearly there were plans afoot to “restructure” which resulted in the resignation of the BBF board, following which BE addressed the membership retrospectively asking for our opinions.  I’m not sure that’s how membership and governance is supposed to work and what seems to have become a worrying trend for BE.”

She added: “You also asked the membership about contributing to the GB programme but I wish to ask if this would even be necessary if the CEO hadn’t failed to draw down the £150k that was available from UK Sport for the preparation of the GB junior teams this summer? … I am sorry to say that your assurances and how you have tried to gloss over some of the real issues in our sport does not fill me with any confidence.

“I do worry because despite your genuine interest to serve our sport, I do agree with those in the membership that feel you are not the right person at this point in time to hold the CEO to account.”

The rebel grouping is understood to be taking legal advice over their position.


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