This has been a difficult week for basketball in Britain. As the basketball membership in Scotland, you’ll no doubt have watched with a degree of dismay at the steady stream of media leaks from the British Basketball Federation (BBF), resignations from their Board, an emotional statement from GB players, all played out in the public forum to portray our magical sport as one that’s become divided and imploding. Throughout discussions, Scotland has sought a consensus between the various stakeholders, funding bodies and UK Government, and we were just as frustrated and disappointed as lovers of basketball across the country that events played out the way they did.
I would like to take the opportunity to speak to you, the basketball membership in Scotland, to explain how we got here, where we’re going and what we value in this ongoing process to play our part to build successful GB squads at all levels.
How we got here
The BBF is the organisation which runs GB basketball teams and was established to be the sum of its members, and its members are the basketball associations of England, Scotland and Wales. For a number of months, we’ve known that the BBF was in extreme financial difficulty and on the brink of collapse, unable to sign off on its annual accounts, unsuccessful in raising adequate sponsorship and not delivering on a number of key goals. A key aspect of the BBF solution was to propose a levy from the associations and for us to tell you the membership to stump up money annually. This plan was presented to us as proof of the BBF’s ambition for GB basketball.
Our response from Day 1 right through to the resignations last week was quite simple: we won’t damage the financial position of basketball in Scotland to fund an operation that is not prepared to reflect on the fact that a number of its current practices are clearly not working, and without assurances that Scottish players, coaches and officials will have equal opportunity to develop and be successful. Their response at every turn, I’m saddened to say, has been out of touch with financial realities and the circumstances of the membership of players and associations that the BBF exists to serve. As a result, the associations of England and Scotland and Wales felt it necessary to re-align the role of BBF, so we can get back to concentrating on basketball and not politics, and finally move to sign off the BBF accounts, an action that is necessary to ensure that the remainder of the much-needed UK Government’s short-term financial package can be delivered. It will also allow us to get back to working closely with the many BBF staff, GB volunteers and players who show immense dedication, passion and loyalty to the sport.
Where we are now
Yes, it’s been a difficult week. But basketballscotland and the associations of England and Wales have not shied away from having the difficult conversations and grappling with the complicated politics that have been necessary to get us to this stage. In fact, we have been united at every turn in believing in the fundamental need for structural change at the BBF, the need for a new vision based upon respect, cooperation and equality of opportunity, and the belief that we can’t spend money that we don’t have and call it ambition.
We want our dreams for basketball in Britain to be built on effective structures, clear pathways from community basketball through to GB level for Scottish players and coaches, and underpinned by robust financial management.
To do this, we will need to regroup. But being pragmatic does not stop us from being ambitious for the sport we love. At its heart, our vision is for GB basketball to be successful on and off the court.
Our immediate focus will be on keeping GB teams playing, reducing management overheads and working to develop the sport from a strong foundation. By continuing to build strong associations within our countries, showing our renewed unity and vision to sponsors, we can build a strong foundation for real, sustainable growth and success for basketball.
Where we’re going
In Scotland, we’ve had a good year on the court. Success at the Commonwealth Games, strong growth by Caledonia Pride and more young people playing basketball within clubs which are becoming ever stronger, to name but a few of the highlights. These successes have taken place as we in Scotland – like many other sports – continue to grapple with financial challenges of our own.
As a sport, we are hugely successful at inspiring young people and showing them the sense of community and belonging that basketball can deliver, the strength of character that can be grown, and the health and wellbeing it can deliver for people of all ages and abilities.
We’re clearly doing a lot of things right. Now is not the time to jeopardise those successes, but to build on them – and we’re acutely aware of other areas that we need to work on with the basketball clubs and membership in the year ahead to keep progressing.
A strong Scotland with strong and effective clubs will produce more talent for GB. A weak Scotland will not. So, let’s keep building. In many ways, the recipe for success is as simple as that.