While it looked as though British Basketball was going to have its funding from Sport England axed, it may be that there is a dramatic reprieve in store. While basketball is well known for its end to end action, this about face by Sport England has caused a bit of a surprise. The news focuses on the fact that Sport England is all set to pledge up to £500,000 to the sport every single year, as long as British Basketball can achieve the same level of funding from another source or sources.
This is believed to be a move to put a heightened level of pressure on UK Sport to provide the same level of backing. Sport England is a backer of grassroots sport and the organisation, which has Nick Bitel as its chair, is fully committed to ensure basketball teams receive support for the major championships. This level of matched funding is set to be in place until 2018 as long as there is backing for the offer.
Big names in British basketball have spoken out
A heightened level of focus fell on British Basketball two months ago when one of the biggest names in the sport, Luol Deng spoke out. The player, currently with Miami Heat, has announced that the sport was extremely close to going bankrupt. This was down to the fact that UK Sport announced that they scrapped a £7m award which was made in February. This put a lot of pressure on some of the top teams in the sport and there were major doubts over whether there would be the funds to send a female Great British team to the European Championships in 2015.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Nick Bitel spoke at length at what Sport England does and how they can help basketball in Britain. Bitel said;
Sport England already invests in talent-development programmes for over 40 sports. This includes sports like basketball, which has a strong appeal among young people. That’s why we’re investing over £9 million in growing grassroots basketball participation and developing talent and why we’re interested in exploring what more can be done to support top players. We’re currently in discussions with our partners.
Politicians always get involved when they can
You can always guarantee that politicians like to get involved and Helen Grant, the Minister for Sport in the UK, spoke to the media, saying;
I am keen to explore what more we can do to support basketball. I believe that the sport has great potential to reach more young people and grow in this country and we are in early discussions with Sport England and UK Sport about how we can help do that.
The head of British Basketball, Roger Moreland, has regularly spoken about the battle to receive funding and of the gap that exists in the funding system that is in place. He announced that he was happy that it looked as though a funding solution could be achieved quickly. While basketball is far from being the most popular sport in Great Britain, there is definitely a need to encourage the game at youth and grassroots levels. This is something that would be of benefit to the emerging talent in the country but it is clearly something that will benefit the players at the top level of the game in British basketball as well.
With a decision needing to be made shortly about the European Championships, which are serving as the qualification tournament for the 2016 Olympic Games being held in Rio, there will likely be a lot of debate in the next few days over the future of British basketball.