London Lions will be without multiple players for this afternoon’s BBL Cup final – and are out of Europe.

Although the domestic showpiece goes ahead, the BBL champions have been forced out of the group stages of the FIBA Europe Cup, which had been due to start on Tuesday in Poland.

MVP revealed on Sunday that the Cup favourites had been decimated by a requirement to self-isolate ahead of the showpiece, against Newcastle Eagles at Leicester Arena.

Following discussions on Saturday night, it was agreed that the game – which will be televised on Sky Sports – could proceed under the BBL’s strict Covid protocols.

“There are Lions players self-isolating,” confirmed a league spokesperson. “But the game will go ahead.”

According to a statement from London, one initial positive test led to six and a mass exclusion. London have 15 players registered for BBL play, not including the long-departed Byron Mullens, according to the league’s website, but will field seven in Leicester.

The club said: “Understandably, the safe recovery of these players and the safety of the club and those we interact with remains our number one priority. In terms of immediate and future protocol, we continue to proceed with great caution, ensuring a deep sanitisation process of all common areas and training facilities.

“All affected players have been in self isolation since the first positive test and the team have not trained together for over four days. All staff attending the final have also passed two Covid tests in the last four days.”

The final had already overcome upheaval after it was switched from University of Worcester Arena on Friday due to flooding.

Previously, London were given a bye through from the semi-finals when Manchester Giants could not field a team due to a Covid outbreak.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Lions coach Vince Macaulay said: “It’s not a case of laying blame on people. It’s about staying safe. We’ve followed all protocols whether it be FIBA, the BBL, government and the NHS.

“We believe we’ve done the right thing. We’ve made sure our guys are healthy.

“Those who are not healthy are not here. Those who have had to self-isolate. Those who are healthy are here.”

In a memo seem by MVP, it also emerged that the table officials assigned for the final withdrew in protest at the situation, with the BBL forced to appeal by email on Sunday morning for others willing to officiate.

Out of Europe

Lions had initially insisted that they would still proceed with their FIBA Europe Cup campaign on Tuesday in Poland with a game against hosts Anwil, even though Europe-only signing Doral Moore is reported to be among those self-isolating.

The group stages are being held in a bubble, with Fribourg of Switzerland and BC Dnipro of Ukraine also in their pool.

However London’s enforced withdrawal was initially confirmed in a statement by Anwil with FIBA confirming the removal of the Lions, whose games will be forfeited, on public safety grounds.

“FIBA Regional Office Europe was informed by the club about several positive PCR test results from the required pre-travel tests among the team delegation prior to the travel to Group E hub in Wloclawek, Poland,” a FIBA statement said.

“The remaining players and staff in the team delegation tested negative, however have to be considered close 1st level contacts with a high risk of potential infection due to the high number of cases in the team and the short timeframe since the confirmed positive tests.

“Therefore, the Crisis Management Team for the Club Competitions of FIBA Europe, based on the recommendation of experts from the FlBA Medical Commission, has decided that the London Lions club will not be allowed to participate in the upcoming Regular Season hub for Group E.

“As per the decision of the Board of FIBA Europe regarding the FIBA Europe Cup hubs, all games of London Lions will be considered as forfeited.”

A statement from London said: “The decision is understandably a very difficult one for us, however safety remains our number one priority for the Club and those around us.”


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