London Lions coach Vince Macaulay has sharply criticised FIBA’s decision to exclude his team from the Europe Cup.

The move, which followed positive Covid tests for six of his players, was announced an hour before Sunday’s BBL Cup final which saw a short-handed Lions lose 84-77 to Newcastle Eagles.

London had been due to fly to Wloclawek on Monday for the four-team group stages of the European competition but FIBA ruled they would be thrown out on public safety grounds after the club had earlier insisted they would still participate.

“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.”

Macaulay, who has placed European competition at the heart of London’s growth strategy following their take-over by US-based 777, believes their ruling was taken in undue haste.

“It’s a wishy-washy decision from FIBA,” he said in a statement on social media. “Their protocols are off whack. There’s no way they’re as stringent as the NHS guidelines, the government guidelines and the BBL’s Covid return to play guidelines. We followed all of those.

“In the end, FIBA just wanted the easy option to stop us going in there. Poland has just as bad a situation as we have here. We followed everything.

“Had they some hard and fast rules that if someone tested positive in your camp, you wouldn’t be able to come… they’d didn’t have that. They wanted us to provide players who had negative tests. We had players who were ready to play so I am disappointed with that decision.

“It’s what we were aiming to do. It’s what our goals were for the season. But we’re here for the long term.”

Poland last week reported a rate of 305 new Covid cases per 100,000 inhabitants while London had a rate of 657, according to published EU and UK data.


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