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England Basketball Propose Major Restructure of National Leagues

August 1, 2014 15:07 pm 19 comments

by Sam Neter

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England Basketball’s reshuffle continues with a proposal for a major overhaul of the national leagues, after an operational review with a focus group, Hoopsfix has learned.

Under the proposal, which was sent out on Friday, changes will potentially take place for the 2015-16 season, focusing on creating a competition structure for both performance and participation.

In the senior leagues, automatic relegation and promotion will take place between Division 1, 2 and 3, while Division 4 will be scrapped, instead being replaced with regionalised participation competitions, with a long term aim of increasing entries to expand the number of competitions and leagues available.

The governing body has recognised the “need for our leagues to become more professional in their approach and presentation”, and as a result a revised set of tiered standards will be brought into practice.

With the Juniors, the national league conference competitions will also be replaced with regionalised participation competitions, while the under-13 and under-15 national leagues will be removed, in line with competitions across Europe and the FIBA age groups, and providing more opportunity for players to play two years at each age group to aid development.

Additionally, the review group strongly recommended introducing an under-12 competition to enhance England’s talent pool and aiming to increase long term participation by giving players access to the game at an earlier age.

Youth Premier League status will also be achieved based on sustained performance and standards, not by choice.

Below is a copy of the email sent out from the governing body, along with the proposed structures underneath it.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

As basketball, more specifically our National Leagues, continues to show growth it has become increasingly evident over a number of seasons that the National League structure requires a review to reflect the needs of the current market and to ensure that our customers are being provided with the best product and our performance/talented athletes’ needs are met with a high commitment and competitive league.

A number of indicators over the last few years, principally feedback from clubs/teams, National Teams coaches and professionals, gave us the foundation for a review of the league structures which identified that changes were needed to ensure that our leagues offer the right platform for our performance participants whilst still offering a competitive outlet for development and participation.

In recent months a review of our current competitions structure has taken place, this formed part of our operational reviews.

The concept was to look at introducing a competitions structure focusing on Performance & Participation, with scope to develop further to increase reach by introducing local, more informal, opportunities at a lower level.

A focus group was set up with their role being to evaluate the options available and draft a final competitions strategy for implementation in the 2015/16 season.

The focus group, after reviewing the current structure identified the need to introduce a multi layered competitions structure (as illustrated in the three attached documents) which provides an outlet focusing on Performance and Participation, thereby allowing sustainable progress from grass roots participation to high level, high commitment professional clubs.

Subtle changes will be made at Men’s Division Four and the youth conference levels, with these leagues becoming more regionalised participation competitions (dependent on entries), with a long term aim of increasing entries to expand the number of competitions and leagues available. This in turn will provide improved local competition without the need for great expense, commitment or travel. Youth Premier League status will be achieved based on sustained performance and standards, not by choice.

The removal of the Under 15 and Under 13 competitions at National League level brings us into line with competitions across Europe and with the FIBA age groups. This also provides the opportunity for players to play two years at each age group which aids their development. There was strong feeling amongst the review group that introducing competition at the Under 12 level would not only enhance our talent pool, but increase overall long term participation by introducing players to the game at an earlier age.

As well as a review of the competition structure, it has been identified there is the need for our leagues to become more professional in their approach and presentation. The leagues are to be standards-led both on and off the court, appropriate for the level of competition, and a revised set of tiered standards will be brought into practice.

These changes will also offer a functional stepping stone for clubs looking to progress into the National League, facilitating a period of adjustment from local league to the increased standards of higher level competition of the development and performance leagues.

We ask that you review the attached documents and provide any feedback on the planned Competitions structure. Any feedback should be provided by Friday 15th August to EBLfeedback@englandbasketball.co.uk

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  • Christian

    Initial impressions- I like it. In many areas, EBL D4 was not much better, if at all, than the top level local leagues- the biggest differential between the two was just how expensive it was to play national league. Seems to be a good way of a) getting the EBL leagues to be a bit more professional and b) bringing the ‘other’ leagues to a consistently higher standard. Would like to see a cup competition of some sort to unite the EBL leagues and development leagues though.

  • ref

    The senior leagues are not the problem, but is there no way to improve competition at our junior levels? While I am sure all the U18’s are giving their all, we have just lost to a country with a total population, according to wiki of about 620,000. We must sort this out!

    Would it not be better to take the top 5 sides in North and South and play each other more frequently, possibly with some cross over between conferences during the regular season, similar to the NBA. Give our top juniors the opportunity to play against each other more frequently because for the top sides it appears that probably more than half their weekends are wasted going through the motions against teams where the result is not in doubt.

  • L

    Huge step forward! Especially for junior basketball, far more in-line with French, Dutch, Spanish models. Once the EABL becomes stronger and more linked to EB the future is looking bright and on the right track. The Men’s development leagues can hopefully act as B teams for D1 and D2 sides again similar to European counterparts. I look forward to see how this develops.

  • Roy

    I assume that there will be no more Conference teams in the junior league and it will consist of just Premier North and South. with 12 teams in each?

    If this is correct, then I would suggest that for the first, say, two/three years, the relegation should be the bottom four teams of each, not the bottom two. This way the poorer teams will be eliminated more quickly and the standard of competition,hopefully, will increase more quickly.

    Additionally, there should be far stricter rules imposed related to participation in the league and in scheduling and playing fixtures.

    The number one priority must be quality, that is standard of competition, not quantity (number of teams/players) , travel etc.

    I suggest the junior league needs more than just “subtle” changes.

  • j

    If a regionalised youth structure is put in place, measures need to be taken to address the internal politics, the unhelpful behaviours, and nepotism that’s exists across club structures within regions. In order to truly improve the quality of the game at all levels, robust and transparent governance mechanisms need to be established, monitored and evaluated; this should include quality monitoring, peer review and consistency checks to improve the quality of refereeing across youth structures. There should be transparent, objective and impartial allocation of referees to matches with a view to enabling youth basketball players to get a fair, balanced and unbiased appraisal of their individual and team performance. A full and comprehensive review should potentially also include the whole of the England Basketball setup, including committee structures and membership, complaints, appeals and communications structures and processes. A professionalisation of EB, including user and carer representation would create an open culture of ‘high challenge, high support’ and would ultimately raise not only the profile but the standard of all aspects of the sport.

  • voise

    My initial thoughts agree with Ref in that it fails to address the biggest issue at junior level – providing consistent high level competition for the top junior programmes in the country. The proposals to scrap u13 and u15 seem to me to increase the potential for blowouts or to discourage the amount of participation – neither of which should be desired outcomes for EB

  • View from the top

    This tinkering with leagues won’t make junior players better or improve standards.
    There are serious problems with the development of junior players.

    “The removal of the Under 15 and Under 13 competitions at National League level brings us into line with competitions across Europe and with the FIBA age groups. ” This does not necessarily mean better.

    “This also provides the opportunity for players to play two years at each age group which aids their development.” Which means the younger players in the age category could be playing players up to 35 months older which is significant at that age in a game where physical development is a major factor.

    “There was strong feeling amongst the review group that introducing competition at the Under 12 level would not only enhance our talent pool, but increase overall long term participation by introducing players to the game at an earlier age.” Making decisions based on feelings and assumptions. Are your ancestors from Salem?

    “it has been identified there is the need for our leagues to become more professional in their approach and presentation.” Any details?
    “leagues are to be standards-led both on and off the court, appropriate for the level of competition, and a revised set of tiered standards will be brought into practice” What is the difference between existing standards and the new ones?

    Change needs to happen but it needs to be for the right reasons.
    I just don’t see this being the best solution for juniors as it does not address many of the existing problems.

    Is there an actual plan for improving the quality of coaching of junior players? What is it?
    Is there a plan to improve facilities and make them affordable for the whole country?
    Is there a business plan?
    Which new sponsors have been brought in?

    It’s good to be looking at junior development but it needs someone to take a step back and really look at the problems. Perhaps those in the focus group are too close to the see all the issues.

  • Frederick Forster

    Hi Sam,

    I would like to know your thoughts on the proposed new England structure.
    Especially the removal of the under 13 and 15 National leagues, surely this cannot help our Junior players to develop whereas playing “up” has its benefits, playing within your age must be of benefit in terms of confidence and general development, sometimes we try and expose kids to things to quickly instead of allowing them to progress naturally and most of all learn the fundamentals and “enjoy the game” there must also be a risk of serious injury as well.(God forbid)
    Yes you can get injured in any sporting situation, but as a 13 year old your body is very much in a development stage and if your being asked to play with 15- 16 years old (vastly developed physiques in some cases)that surely cant be very smart or safe.
    I think it is a bad idea to scrap these two particular age group, I could give plenty more reason why but I am not sure how much good it would do honestly.

  • Gunny

    I think that the removal of the U13 leagues is so wrong. It’s an excellent regional development league ATM with great participation which should also be used as a seeding system for the following year. eg final fours teams plus top 3-4 teams from U13 leagues go into Premier U14 leagues (north & south) the following year with 3down/3 up relegation- promotion from lower leagues and if a team outside the Premier and promotion places reaches Final Fours they automatically are placed into the Premier league the following year at the expense of the 3rd/4th bottom Premier team.this way the Premier leagues from U14’s onwards have the best teams,competition in them.

  • Roy

    No matter how /if the EBL or the BBL develop, the future of the sport rests entirely with the present junior players and until our juniors get strong competitive competition throughout the season the sport will always be struggling in both junior and senior international competition.

    I am not sure who wrote this report but at the end of the day I assume it was compiled after a working lunch where the bottom line required the focus group to think outside the box in an effort to take everything to the next level for its customers.!!

    In fairness to the EB it is way beyond its scope to overcome so many obstacles outside of its control, such as venues, training facilities, government and local attitudes and so on (although it can well have influence on these).

    With reference to the conclusions relative to the Junior League, if, as I have assumed, it will in 2015/2016 be re-structured to comprise solely of a North Premier Division and South Premier Division it will indeed become a National League that has been regionalised in an effort to reduce travel costs.

    If this is correct, It is imperative that it is not “Subtle changes” that are made but a complete , and possibly radical, change in the way the League is organized, administered and run.

    If this re-organization is to have any noticeable effect on improving competitive standards within each division then the prerequisite objective must be purely based on QUALITY (of standard and competitiveness)

    It is questionable at the present time as to whether or not there are indeed 24 quality teams for this League, nevertheless only the very best 12 teams available should be invited to enter either Division,. This will mean there will have to be some judgment calls made as to which teams are indeed the best teams to invite.

    However, before any team is invited to enter the league, sufficient advanced notice must be given regarding the rules and regulations of this “new” League., and it is largely dependent upon these rules and regulations as to how the standard of competition will be affected.

    Initially there is absolute certainty that there will be some teams winning games easily and that there will be many weak teams. To try and obviate the weaker teams as quickly as possible perhaps relegation should apply to the bottom 4 (or even 5) teams for the first 2 or 3 years and then revert to normal relegation/promotion. This will have a secondary effect in that more teams will continue to try as hard as possible to avoid the relegation zone.

    Again, to promote a “professionally” run league all teams that wish to enter pay an up-front Bond of, say £150/200 which, at the end of the season, will be refunded, in full, IF all games have been played as originally scheduled and agreed by all parties. No more excuses for postponing a fixture because a minibus was not available (when the real reason was the best player(s) was/were unavailable to play.) Any re-scheduled or cancelled game means less of the up-front Bond being reimbursed.

    In the National Junior League of many years ago, all teams had to submit two/three names of match officials to the EB. The EB would then appoint match officials from the nominated pool.. This avoided many problems such as the same officials at the same home games, or suspicions of bias by “Home” officials officiating a team’s home match.

    After each game, both teams had to submit a report on the performance of the match officials to the EB, thus providing the EB with a useful means of monitoring the standard of its officials. Of course there was often a difference between the report of the winning team to that of the losing team, but over the season, the reports balanced out.

    This would require work from the EB (and give a service to and for its customers), but would certainly help to improve standards
    .
    All coaches and assistant coaches should be qualified to a designated standard and all table officials should be qualified, with no exceptions

    It might also be suggested that a second up-front (travel) Bond be paid in to the EB prior to the start of the season to assist clubs with travel expenses. Some clubs will have considerable expense in travel costs while for others this might be considerably less. The travel bond could then be used to ensure that all clubs pay, more or less, the same in travel costs.

    Rules such as these, (and possible others), all geared to providing a well run and highly competitive league. would have to be published way in advance of the season start. Maybe some clubs will consider such rules excessive and not enter, but surely those clubs/teams that REALLY want to compete in a top class competition would strive to adhere to these regulations.

    I reiterate that the primary objective has to be quality, and to ,at last, have a league that is as professionally run as possible, providing strong competition throughout the season. The League cannot be run to account for the lowest denominator, but has to start with a strong and rigid foundation which demands 100% effort from all teams that aspire to compete.

  • Will it change ?

    The Ebba should be about participation for all not professionalism. ebba have yet again missed the point. Basketball in my 30 years experience reaches out and brings together all ages, ethnic and socio economic backgrounds. Affordable basketball for all should be ebba’s main aim. Basketball is one of the top participation sports in the uk yet it has out of date archaic leadership. anyone with a brain can see these changes are to secure grants & funding with out solving the fundamental problems. I’m resigned to the fact that things will not change and the game I love will once again muddle on till the next set of reinvented changes.

    • Morris

      Disagree.
      ,
      Certainly affordable basketball for all should be an aim of the EB but not its main aim. The main aim should and must be strong standard and competition. Everything else will follow.

      Competitive and exciting games will attract spectators and encourage people to participate in the sport.

      Whether the EB has the wherewithal to ensure the sport is affordable is a good question. Does the EB have the ability to control , for example, what local councils charge for cost of court hire ?

  • Ian Farish

    Just because European basketball is generally at a higher level than in the Ena d it dosn’t mean you copy their youth structure. There is little rationale as to why scrapping the under 13 and 15s will improve our game. All I see happening is clubs will field 2,3 or 4 teams in the new age groups. In effect someone like Magic will have 2 under 13 teams and 2 under 14 teams in the under 14s. Maybe some bennefit for the under 13s but the risk of more under14 teams producing blow outs. The truth is that those kids capable play up currently anyway. The challenge is to create more competitive basketball at junior level, not less

  • morris

    I would agree with the comments relating to the U13 and U15 competitions. As has been written, just because it falls in to line with FIBA does not make it necessarily the right thing to do. Even FIBA can be misguided!!!.

    I would disagree that young players should not “play up”. I know that when I was coaching my junior teams I would enter them into the local men’s league. (the players were aged between 14 and 16) It proved extremely beneficial, especially when the teams had to play in its own age groups.

    View from the top suggests that “This tinkering with leagues won’t make junior players better or improve standards.”

    I would agree with the word tinkering, however a major change will definitely help players to become better and improve standard.s

    If you do not have a league that at least attempts to have the best teams competing then any form of development (player and coaching) is surely prohibited. Yes, there is no doubt that the standard of coaching (and officiating) has to improve, but if a league offers good (high?) level of competition then doesn’t that go towards helping the development of (game) coaching.

  • dpeti

    A North and South premier division? Isn’t this what has been promulgated by so many people over the years? It’s one below a full National League.

    Maybe the EB is waking up.

  • E

    Change is necessary and you have to start somewhere,I think EB should have gone even further and have an under 10’s .lets hope they try and sort out the coaching problems there’s no point talking about development if do not have quality coaches developing them.

  • E

    Can anyone at EB explain what will happen to the Regional Development Program/tournament for 13’s and 15’s and the RPC program

  • http://twitter.com/matt_clear Matt

    I don’t mind the scrapping of under 13 and under 15 leagues. That could actually help to improve the standard of the under 14 and under 16 age groups, as the best players from the year below will now also be playing in those leagues, resulting in a deeper pool of quality players and (hopefully) quality teams.

  • Duco van Oostrum

    If this restructuring is so we align more with FIBA youth competition structures, why not finally go to birth year groups rather than school years? The two-year age groups will allow players to play with school year friends. As the proposal stands, it’s another half-way house.

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