Another damaging rift has opened up between British basketball’s leading players and administrators.

It can be revealed that the Great Britain men’s team, plus Alberto Lorenzo and his coaching staff, have been asked to work for free in the latest round of cutbacks to the programme.

The revelation comes ahead of a must-win EuroBasket 2021 pre-qualifier against Austria in Schwechat on Sunday in which the side must defeat their hosts by 14 points or more to avoid dropping into what is effectively Europe’s lowest tier.

But while players are no longer being given a daily allowance – having originally agreed to a reduction to help fund the Under-20 programme – GB’s coaching and medical staff have now been stripped of their salaries with at least one assistant coach forced to pay their own flight to Austria this weekend.

The edict was passed down from the British Basketball board three weeks ago and the move could have far-reaching consequences if this is considered the final straw for some.

“It’s been a few years now since we had per diems,” said Great Britain’s captain Dan Clark. “I don’t think you should want to get paid for playing for your national team. If you get help, it’s greatly appreciated.

“But it has to be said that we owe a huge thanks for the commitment that the coaches and medical staff and support staff have made to the team. They’re not getting what they deserve and I don’t think it’s fair.

“Other people within the ranks of the national governing bodies are getting paid and I don’t think some of them are living up to what they should be doing. They hide behind the name and just continue to embarrass us as a sport. It’s hard to take sometimes. But we have to stick together as a team and fight through this as we have done over the last few years.”

Last year, GB’s men protested against management

His stinging rebuke comes on the back of last year’s public stand by the men’s team, with support from their female counterparts, which heavily criticised the manner in which the sport has been run – and in particular, the internal battle for control with the home nations of England, Scotland and Wales which saw most of its BBF board resign in protest.

British Basketball recently received £75,000 from UK Sport’s Aspiration Fund but it is understood that the money will be spent on preparing Great Britain’s women for their bid to qualify for next year’s Olympics via June’s EuroBasket finals in Serbia.

However the embattled governing body’s chair, Maurice Watkins, defended the cost-cutting measures.
“Obviously financial strictures have to be both long and short term, depending on the nature of what we’re trying to save money on,” the former Manchester United director said. “Because we’re trying to cut our cloth to suit the coat.”

Defeat or a narrow win would condemn GB’s men to play four further qualifying games in August, with Luxembourg and Kosovo among their possible opponents.

Extra costs for the BBF, plus the complication of bringing players on board during a period where many will still be chasing contracts for next season.

Watkins offered reassurances that budget would be found for the additional spend despite fears of a withdrawal from the EuroBasket 2021 qualifying process.

Austerity, he underlined, “doesn’t mean we want to lose the opportunities to play across all levels. Because you can’t have the progress from grassroots if you haven’t got the role models. You can’t cut it off. I want to see It firing.”

But, Clark signalled, a breaking point may be fast approaching where the fracture might be irreparable.

“It’s heart-breaking and it’s disappointing and there are times when you come to camp or you get the invite and you think about it and just want to cry sometimes, with the details they’ve given you, especially when you see people here saying they care about the game and they obviously don’t.”

On the court, Lorenzo’s men will be heartened by their performance in Thursday’s victory over Cyprus in Manchester, and a pace which they will need to put enough points on the board while limiting Austria’s free-scoring wing Sylven Landesberg.

We can’t let the pressure of reversing last autumn’s 96-82 defeat become a distraction, Clark adds.

“It’s always going to be on guys minds because we have the goal of recovering those points,” he said. “The veteran guys need to make sure we don’t just focus on that. It could make us anxious and play the type of basketball we don’t want to play.

“We need to play our best because that’s what we need to beat them. If we start thinking about 14 points, we might lose the game.”

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Photo: Mansoor Ahmed

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