With BBF receiving a paltry £500,000 per annum, GB Basketball chairman Chris Grant says that the sport in the UK is at a ‘critical crossroads‘. Where can the second largest participant sport in the UK go from here?
Basketball in the United Kingdom is in a very precarious position with resources so lacking that not a single person is currently employed full-time in the sport.
As GB Women continue their qualifying campaign for the Olympics, GB Basketball chairman Chris Grant gave a starkly and somewhat sombre message outlining the untenable and unsustainable position that the sport finds itself in.
One of largest participant sports in UK
Grant also questioned why British basketball receives a minuscule amount of funding when compared to many other sports, especially so given that it comes second only to football in terms of participants with around 1.3 million. Almost a half of these (47%) are from non-white British backgrounds, while the women’s team are now in the top 20 in the world rankings. GB basketball is also one of the largest markets for many UK bookmakers with a large percentage of punters betting regularly on the sport.
The BBF (British Basketball Federation) gets under £500,000 per annum from UK Sport and this relatively tiny amount has to cover such things as competition costs for senior and age group teams as well as travel and licensing for the BBL (British men’s league) and WBBL (British women’s league).
The small size of the funding is highlighted when it is compared to the funding available for the likes of shooting (£1.55m), equestrian (£3m), Canoeing (£3.4m) and sailing (£5.65m). The main criteria for funding from UK Sport is based upon the chances of winning medals, however despite the fact that this is the second most played team sport in the UK and one of the NBA’s biggest markets in Europe with a steady stream of high quality players, it is still regarded very much as a niche sport.
Many of the issues faced by British basketball are long standing but the words of the sport’s chairman have a much larger impact given that he played a key role in the successful implementation of ‘Mission 2012″ which was paramount to the success of Team GB’s Olympic and Paralympic campaigns in Tokyo, Rio and London. Grant has also been successful in finding a major sponsor for the GB teams as well as managing to get full support from FIBA – the sport’s international governing body – for an interim executive position. No less than six GB teams of all age groups will attend summer tournaments without individual players’ families needing to pay for themselves to attend.
Reliance on British basketball
Many new betting sites in the UK rely on British basketball with a relatively large percentage of their customer base regularly playing on the betting markets available to them, while customers from across the pond continue to take advantage of the many US free bets and other offers available on GB Basketball. This is a key part of their business and a continued lack of funding from UK Sport may put this in jeopardy.
The GB women’s team will be striving for success in their qualifying campaign for the 2024 Olympics and should they finish in the top six in the Eurobasket tournament, then they will go through. They made it through to the semi-finals in their last appearance in the competition and confidence will be high that they can go one better and make it into the finals this time around.
Reason for optimism
Grant has hinted that he might have little option but to step down from his position as chairman of the sport, however there is reason to be optimistic for the immediate future of British basketball. UK Sport has stated that it is set to invest around £1.3 million in the lead up to the 2024 Olympics and this will allow for the appointment of new staff as well as build and attract new development and interest in what is in many respects a major sport in the UK. This funding will go a long way towards providing long-term financial sustainability and immediate support will be provided to the Women’s Eurobasket campaign which is a key qualification opportunity for next year’s Olympics in Paris.
There can be little doubt that GB basketball is on the up in many ways with plenty of commitment from those involved in the sport at all levels, however funding is key to this continued growth and a critical crossroads has been reached. All certainly isn’t lost and success for the women’s team would help to highlight the sport to an even wider audience, and thus attract more in the way of sponsorship. The number of regular participants has never been greater and youngsters are being attracted to the sport in huge numbers across the UK.
Which direction the sport takes depends on many things, however foremost amongst these is the ability to attract and train new young players and this clearly has its costs. Funding at the highest level of the game is undeniably important but it really needs to be at all levels – from top to bottom – and this is the key challenge for the years ahead.
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