- National Teams
The British Basketball Association or BBA as they are more widely known are “not a bunch of Americans coming to take over British basketball” says Ron Scott, Chief Executive. “In fact, I take exception to that” he went on to say as I received an out of the blue phone call in response to a message I had sent him a few weeks back. By the sounds of things, regardless of who is involved, the BBA have big plans.
There has been a lot of confusion and question marks surrounding the BBA, after changes in official launch dates and a lack of updates to their website and social media accounts since their inception in 2007. They also seem to have fostered negativity within some circles which Scott is well aware of. “I cant let public opinion to effect how I proceed, meaning I wont allow whatsbev, for example, to dictate how I proceed. I have to worry about bringing a proper product to the market, a sustainable business over the long term. That means working on our own timetable, nobody elses. I’d rather wait and launch a decent business than force the issue for September 2010 (one of the original proposed launch dates) and then fail within a few months because we didn’t do it properly”.
The BBA was founded by a group of business, sports marketing and basketball professionals who wanted to create a commercially viable professional basketball league in the UK. Since then, despite not a lot seeming to be going on at the surface, it has gone from strength to strength attracting a number of high profile board members to help advise and execute it’s plans. “It may seem on the ground that not a lot of progress has been made” Scott went on, “but behind the scenes we have been working hard. It hasn’t been easy, really hasn’t been easy” he reiterated. Two of their recent additions to the board include ex London Leopards GM Ed Simons, who they hope will provide some valuable insight on the UK game, and football financier Keith Haris. Mix in these two with former NBA marketing executives (Dr Bernard J Mullin), former NBA players (John Amaechi, A.C Green), and others who have excelled in their fields (some have actually been named as one of the ‘100 Most Powerful People in Sports’ such as William L. Strickland) and you have a team that some of the largest sporting organisations in the world would be jealous of.
So what are they actually doing, what is taking so long? They’re in the process of raising $25 million, no easy task. “We want to attract some of the top talent in Europe, to do that, you need the money” Scott carried on, “further money will come from franchisees, which we will secure once we have the television deals in place”. Scott emphasised the importance of television and explained that a television deal is “the predeccesor to everything”. Scott was not willing to divulge how much has been raised so far, explaining for the last 3-4 years the BBA has been self funded from founders money and he doesn’t think they would be too pleased with him disclosing the amount.
It seems Scott and Co are not all about just bringing in the top talent from Europe but want to help the development of UK players too, mentioning using the BBL as a developmental league to the BBA. “We don’t want it to be a case of British players having to go overseas to get anywhere with basketball”, Scott is of the thinking that if the money is in place, the BBA will become a viable option for players to earn a “living wage” as opposed to having to go abroad for a basketball career (currently the vast majority of the national team play abroad, and as you know, no-one aspires to play in the BBL when they grow up). The BBA will be working with player salary budget of around $1million and be offering multi year tie ins to give players stability and security. I was mildly disappointed when told there would only be a minimum of 3 British players per roster, but Scott made it clear that if the BBA wants to be the juggernaut they are hoping to be, they need to bring in players of the highest calibre, “quality players from around the globe”. With the help of Bill Strickland (NBA agent) and John Amaechi (Director of Player Personnel and Grass Roots Basketball), there will be “stringent” thresholds in place to ensure the BBA consists of only the top talent from the UK and the rest of the world.
The scale of what they’re working with in comparison to the BBL which has estimated team budgets in the thousands is massive, “We’re looking at $3-4 million per team”.
It is also may reassure a lot of people, Mr Scott doesn’t want to get into all the BBL rivalry issues. “We need to put all that to the side, I don’t have time for the anti-BBA or pro-BBL talk”, explaining that none of the 8 selected franchises they are looking at are even based in any of the current BBL cities. The cities they are targeting? They have an option for a Liverpool franchise, and are also looking at Manchester as there is a “prominent member of the British basketball community, an Englishman” (no prizes for guessing who) who is interested. They are targeting an eventual 21 games for each team but noting that may not be possible straight away, meaning the league would work up to it.
I probed him why there had not been more updates with a website that has not been updated since it’s launch, a Twitter account with 2 tweets (the last one being July 30th ’09) and a Facebook which is pretty much inactive. “Right now things are not material enough to go there, when contracts are signed, venues are secured announcements will be made”, from a competitive standpoint he said, it doesn’t make sense to inform people of who he’s talking to especially when nothing is inked.
Despite currently living in New York, Scott, who is the only board member working full time on the BBA knows he can’t run things the way he wants to from the other side of the pond, “I’m moving to London from New York, which will be a challenge, I think New York is a great city! But I need to be in London to make sure things are being done right. To make sure the BBA is run the way it should be run”.
The new targeted launch date? November 2011, don’t hold them to it though, because if they’re gonna do it, they’re gonna do it properly.
*For further reading Basketball 24/7’s Mark Woods put up a nice article yesterday on the BBA which can be found here.
Ron Scott Image Credit: Hosana