Here’s a primer on what the non-cessation of the BBL might means.

The British Basketball League hasn’t cancelled the entire season – why?

The board of the BBL, i.e. all eleven clubs, convened by conference call on Tuesday and opted to postpone “until future notice.”

It is understood only Glasgow Rocks voted for total cancellation in a debate to call it quits.

The line from the league is that “it is in the best interests of the sport to see out the season and that this postponement offers the best chance to do so.”

But that’s bonkers, right? Sport’s not resuming any time soon…

On the face of it yes. Some within the BBL were still floating the idea as late as last week that you could somehow get to the Playoff final on May 17 with a speedy resumption.

That’s clearly not going to happen with most events now cancelled well into June – and government projecting the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK may be into July.

Come out of that on the other side, and it might be optimistic to consider any sport coming back before August, even behind closed doors.

What does postponing mean in practical terms?

Contracts can’t be voided off due to the season ending – in theory.

One team MVP spoke to believe that’s the one major negative impact – a significant chunk of operational costs can’t be immediately slashed with the prospect of no revenue coming in. (That’s from ticket sales and all the community / schools work so many teams rely on).

However another owner has ventured that not having games would be enough to enforce a break clause.

Given that over half the clubs in the BBL have seen their Americans go home, a good chunk of pruning has already taken place. But coaches and British players should still expect to be paid until at least the middle of May, as it stands.

Could the league resume?

Of course, it could carry on at a later point.

Like the options under consideration by the NBA, you could theoretically have a rapid series of games at a central venue behind closed doors – to either get to a rescheduled playoff final or to complete the league programme (Oddly, this would have been even more practical for the WBBL, which has been definitively stopped).

The headache is availability of players and staff if we get into the summer. Contracts will be up by then so you would have to bring back those players and coaches who are still free on a short-term deal.

It’s not as if the BBL has to fit into a TV schedule and there will be arena availability. It’s vaguely doable. But perhaps not desirable, given that some clubs will not be able to regroup.

Financially, where does this leave the league and its teams?

Not in a good place, by most metrics. Like many small businesses impacted by Covid-19, they may have to trim costs, cut staff and prioritise survival to ensure they are on the starting line for next season.

At least with many venues closing, they should be off the hook for arena hire. But you often spend what you expect to bring in. And if – as Lions owner Vince Macaulay told me – you have sold-out games ahead which will now not take place, it’s already economically painful too.

That applies to the league itself which has projected income that’s now evaporated.

Its big three events are huge drivers. January BBL Cup, I’m told, was up on expected revenue this season. Last weekend’s BBL Trophy was smacked by stayaways although many will have pre-paid for tickets.

But the Playoff final at The 02 is highly lucrative and central to operating the league – worth, one source said, in excess of £250,000. And then there’s the media rights deal with Perform / Dazn whose value may be cut if there are no games to screen for bettors worldwide.

When you consider the league and clubs – like any business – will already have spent some of their expected revenue, and the likes of Leicester and Newcastle have loan payments on their brilliant venues, it’s no wonder BBL chair Sir Rodney Walker is set to lobby government for some kind of financial aid package.

And what happens to the league title if the BBL doesn’t resume?

Don’t expect a champion to be declared. Glasgow Rocks, leaders in points and winning percentage, believe they should be gifted the title but even before their public rant against the decision not to scrap the season, there was little support for a coronation from various teams I’d spoken to over the past week.

In fact, the statement the Rocks issued surrounding “sporting integrity” generated a fair amount of swiping from other teams.


My good friend Dan Routledge and I chatted on this during our BBC commentary last Sunday and his Twitter sums up a popular opinion that says the idea denies Leicester and London a sporting shot at winning the league.

Personally, I admit I’ve gone back and forth but over the past week, my view’s gone from agreeing with Dan to believing that the Rocks should be given the title.

There’s a Latin phrase primum non nocere (firstly, do no harm) which has been appropriated by Google as a kind of mission statement.

Apply that to the BBL situation, and you ask: what harm would it cause to give Glasgow the championship? Firstly, other leagues in Europe have gone down the route – and the Rocks could possibly have been as few as two wins away from clinching.

But second, and more significantly, it doesn’t cost the league or any of the other eleven clubs a penny to have a champion named by default – but it would bring a net gain to Glasgow (a positive). Plus, in turn, you validate the season so far rather than vaporising it completely, even if it will forever come with an asterisk attached.

And in these times of angst and strife, do we not want feel-good stories wherever they can be found?

Photo: MAP

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