- National Teams
On Thursday, UK Sport upheld their decision to withdraw British Basketball’s funding to zero, and later that day we spoke with British Basketball Performance Chairman, Roger Moreland, to discuss the implications and what it actually means. What follows is a direct transcription of the entire conversation which took place over the phone.
Hoopsfix: Did you expect today’s decision or was it completely out of the blue?
Roger Moreland: I don’t know whether expected is the right word to be honest. I guess the thought would be having had the funding taken away last year and then restored last year with the new information we had last year, we always thought that was a challenge to have funding restored two years in a row, it would be pretty significant wouldn’t it.
So you’ve gotta try and make your case as positively as you can, always knowing that in the background this has happened last year, we’ve been reprieved, and now we’re here again.
Hoopsfix: What did you base your informal representation on, what did you talk about?
Roger Moreland: Firstly, the most important thing, is that both ourselves and UK Sport agree that we can qualify for Rio and that we could get into the Top 8, with both the men and the women.
What we disagree on is the percentage that they attribute to that. They have now employed what I would call ‘money ball geeks’ to work out percentages, based on precedent. One of the challenges for us in all of that is, all the time we’re breaking new ground so the ability to be able to statistically verify the previously not done from a British point of view is always going to be difficult.
I think there’s more to where we’ve come from, and what we’re building up, what’s been built up beneath in the pathway and you know one of the things we did last year, and we’ve done again this year, because many of the arguments are the same, is really talked about the players that are coming through in the system and the fact that, if you’re looking particularly at 2020 it’s largely going to be a blend of players that we know at Senior level/future levels, and are currently Under-20s and Under-18s, and that’s a pretty good crop.
But again, at an age group level, they’re also achieving unprecedented things and if you’re going just by statistics you’re not going to be able to justify just what a big leap we all know has been made by the players in the game now, as compared to even when the programme started, and that’s I think the frustrating part of it.
If you’re looking at the wider picture, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that there are no team sports having had funding restored. There’s a longer gestation period for team sports and other countries have recognised that and acknowledged the role they play and it’s important to be able to support them appropriately so they can deliver national teams. I think that’s where the debate is probably going to go now to be honest.
It now needs leadership in the system which is only going to come from a political level, combined with a drive to look at how the sport grows in revenue terms.
Hoopsfix: Talking about the younger players coming through, the U18s and U20s, do you think you can say with a 100% certainty that the success at those levels has been due to the formation of British Basketball in 2006/2007?
Roger Moreland: I would never say it was down to just British Basketball in any event. I think there’s a whole heap of factors, of course it’s a talented generation, but it’s not a talented generation by coincidence.
There’s clearly an enormous amount of good work that has gone on in the places where they’ve been developed by coaches who’ve [unable to make out word] a group of players with better fundamental skills for many a long year.
The work that has gone on within the home countries as part of the pathway and our ability through the strategic approach that has taken over in the past few years to make that system more coherent. I would never attribute it solely to British Basketball, I think it’s a whole heap of factors that have come together to make that possible, combined with an undoubtedly talented generation.
Hoopsfix: This summer, what does it actually mean? I know you might say it’s too early to say but I’m sure you’ve got a rough idea of how much the budgets will be reduced for the Senior and U20s teams. What is the actual stark reality?
Roger Moreland: There’s a piece of information that UK Sport have, and are sympathetic to, in that the date when we have to enter European Championships, and the date when they make these decisions, just don’t coincide. We have committed to the European Championships and UK Sport in their press release made some reference to transitional something or other, I can’t remember the specifics.
From our point of view, that’s the discussion that next has to take place with UK Sport. There is a reputational factor, and there is a commitment factor already in place, due to the fact that we’ve entered those U20s and Senior Men and Women into championships already this summer.
Does it mean we will have the same amount of funding we would have had, had we not lost this funding? No it doesn’t. Absolutely nowhere near. Does it mean that hopefully with a constructive conversation with UK Sport in recognition of what this means…anything else would mean reputational issues for sport in Great Britain in general. I think it’s not just about basketball.
Does it mean we could do all the things we wanted to do without the full funding, well no it doesn’t. Does it mean we can deliver a set of four teams capable of competing well this summer? Yes I think it does. It’s not going to be ideal, I’d be foolish to suggest otherwise.
Hoopsfix: I’m right in thinking there’s quite severe fines if you do withdraw, isn’t there?
Roger Moreland: Yeah, there is, and that will be something that UK Sport will be made fully aware of, and they already have been, in fact.
Hoopsfix: So essentially, you think its likely they will give you a very small amount of money to ensure you can actually see those commitments through, and then after that you will look at, depending on whether or not the situation changes, withdrawing the following year?
Roger Moreland: Well, we’ve been pretty prudent as an organisation over the last few years in building up a reserve, for just these types of circumstances, in all honesty. I think as with all years, it’s not just reliant on one source of funding, it’s about the combination of what we can bring to the party, what hopefully we can negotiate constructively with UK Sport with a proper case, and also clearly revenues generated elsewhere, largely though the events that we’ll put on this summer. It’s a combination of all of those things.
What it doest present us with a challenge of, is if we qualify for Eurobasket then there’s a big challenge in terms of the revenue that we have to participate next year.
In the meantime, and this is not just a basketball case, there’s been a pretty strong and vigorous debate within the media over the last few weeks regarding team sports in particular, Olympic and Paralympic, and I guess I’m confident that team sports are going to come together and make their case for acknowledgement that they deserve support.
There should be some solution to the current situation which helps team sports to compete internationally, not as a means of charity, but if you take, I can only speak in detail about our case, we’ve moved light years in terms of the levels we’ve been playing at over the last few years and we’re not asking for charitable support, we’ve always said we’re more than happy to be performance managed but there’s no doubt team sports have a longer incubation period I think. Particularly ones that have not been playing at these levels before.
The other point to make on this, there’s been some comments I’ve seen about everyone being funded up until 2012 to ensure that Team GB put out a team in every sport and I think all the team sports that, I can certainly speak from basketball’s case, we’ve used that really positively to perform at a different level than we’ve ever done before. I think that’s a disrespectful way to look at the legacy for team sports like basketball from 2012 because they deserve more than that.
Hoopsfix: You talked briefly about other sources of income, has David Leyden Dunbar (Commercial Director) come any closer to sourcing other streams of income, potential sponsorship deals or anything else?
Roger Moreland: The big issue is that…all the partners in the sport, resolve that for the sport to move forward in the commercial arena, they agreed some time ago that if you’re looking for proper commercial sponsorship, from grassroots right through to the national teams, we all needed to contribute our assets to the pot if you like. So the BBL, ourselves, EB, basketball Scotland, Basketball Wales etc have all been looking at what that means for an overall British package.
So essentially you could say that the overall rights for the benefit of the game as a whole coming together in a pot is a really important thing to do.
I’m sure that we will move on over the next few months regarding sponsorships for the series of games over this summer. One of the things that we need to look at first of all is securing television as part of our strategy for the way forward this summer. I think it’s bit by bit. There’s a lot of advanced discussion going on and we just need to hopefully bring those to a conclusion to maximise commercial revenues this summer.
Hoopsfix: Do you think it will be on commercial/free to air TV or paid for channels?
Roger Moreland: It’s probably not the appropriate time to talk about which channels, whether terrestrial or satellite right now, because discussions are ongoing.
Hoopsfix: And what are your thoughts about a formal appeal?
Roger Moreland: It’s one we’re going to look at, Sam. Of course this is a different type of setup to the representation process we’ve just concluded because it looks at the technicalities of the procedure, in other words, have UK Sport followed their procedures appropriately.
So we have to have a slightly different look than the look we’ve been focusing on over the past few weeks, so we’ll take time, discuss with our legal advisors and consider what our options are before the middle of April.
Going back to the budget this summer, if UK Sport can’t put in any money to help you fulfil those commitments to the European Championships, do you have the money to do it on a shoestring budget? Or would you physically not be able to afford it.
We will definitely be doing something. We’ve already announced the women’s games for the summer and we wouldn’t have announced those unless we had the funding to be able to deliver that, so that’s pretty clear, and I’m sure further announcements will be made in due course. Those announcements wouldn’t have been made unless we’d looked at what we’ve got and been confident we can deliver on that.
We just need to look at the entirety of the programme now and add to the information within the next few weeks and hopefully that can be concluded pretty quickly, but I say that with caution obviously in these matters.
Hoopsfix: Do you think there’s a chance that GB could move to the England Basketball model of getting under-20 players to contribute money themselves to help fund the trip?
Roger Moreland: I really don’t know at this particular time. I guess like everything, no option is ruled out at this particular moment, but we haven’t taken any decisions on that one right now.
Hoopsfix: Does no funding change anything in terms of the confederated approach between the home nations being represented as GB from 2016?
Roger Moreland: You’re probably better off talking to other people than me on that one. From my perspective, all I would say is that FIBA have been very clear in their announcements that an agreement has been signed and they’re expecting that to happen. I don’t see anything that leads me to conclude otherwise, but that’s for others to look at rather than me, I’ve got enough to look at in delivering the national teams at the moment.
Hoopsfix: Will the funding cut mean people within the organisation will be forced to leave their jobs?
Roger Moreland: It’s quite possible. It’s quite possible. Frankly, we’re a pretty lean organisation right now, we do not have many staff at all. In fact if you had fingers on one hand, you’d have too many to count the numbers of staff we have. We bring the bulk of our staff in, coaches, scientists, medics etc, as part of the programmes in the summer. They’re not part of the established staff here year around.
Hoopsfix: Do you think anyone within British Basketball should take responsibility and be held accountable for the situation we are in again?
Roger Moreland: It’s always a wonderful phrase isn’t it? What do you mean by accountability? In the end, we’re measured by the results on the floor and I think if you look back at the results last year, the new information last time was about being able to qualify for the World Championships and that was always about giving us a chance. But when you also consider that across the board last year, it was probably the most successful year for all the British teams showing progress, it depends what you want people to be held accountable for, Sam.
Hoopsfix: I feel like we’re in exactly the same position we were in 12 months ago, and when you were in this position 12 months ago, do you not think it could have been possible for you to put things in place so that if this were to happen again you’d be in a situation where you’d be better prepared for it and not be in exactly the same position you are in?
Roger Moreland: You tell me what would have been done differently. We put teams out on the floor last year, we achieved as I said the best set of results across the board that have been achieved, we already committed the assets we have to the cause of being able to generate revenue for the sport, and we’ve been prudent in planning over time in establishing a reserve that would enable us to run this summer albeit in a skeleton way.
So I supposed what I would say is, we’ve done a high degree of planning for an eventuality such as this, if we hadn’t done, we wouldn’t be contemplating running this summer at all.
Hoopsfix: Do you think it would have been possible to run any leaner last summer to ensure you had more money for this summer?
Roger Moreland: I don’t think so, no. And even then, that presents an issue because you can’t create a reserve out of UK Sport money. You have to use the money that you’re given by UK Sport for the purposes that it’s given.
Hoopsfix: And do you have to use it within that year?
Roger Moreland: You have to use it within that funding period and you normally forecast what is going to be required over a four year period. So for example, if you go back to the London Olympiad, we knew that the preparation for the Olympic games was going to require more investment in the final year of that Olympiad than in the other years, so our forecasting over the period reflected that.
Last year we only have guaranteed funding for 1 year, which makes it really difficult. We could be having the same conversation now and you might have been saying to me ‘well don’t you think you should have spent all the money that you were awarded last year in order to try and achieve the milestone target of qualifying for the World Championships. It’s chicken and egg isn’t it.
Hoopsfix: So the reserves you have got, is that from private income?
That’s independently generated income from a variety of sources over time, so that’s the only income that we’re allowed to put into reserves. As I say, we’re not allowed to put into reserve UK Sport funding, there’d be a certain percentage, which is only a small one, which we can carry forward from a UK Sport perspective, but some sports I’m aware would have had funding culled back in previous year because they weren’t allowed to take forward the amount of funding they wanted to.
So you’ve got to be careful with this. There’s a whole host of things around public funding coming from, let’s take the UK Sport example, which I do wonder about sometimes, sometimes you have ‘wouldn’t you have been better investing that in other places in Britain to support the development of basketball?’, and the answer to that is it’s not given for that purpose, and we expressly couldn’t use it for that purpose.
There’s specific things it’s given for and thats what it has to be used for and you can’t squirrel it away year on year.
Hoopsfix: What sponsorship deals are currently still active?
Roger Moreland: From the last period, we are in the process of negotiating other commercial deals, so for example, we talked before about what would be thrown ‘into the pot’ as far as an across the board effort to attract sponsorship and the Standard Life sponsorship would fit into that, for example.
What you’ve got to remember when we’re looking at this, is ok, we could go out and sell the National Teams and look for a replacement for Standard Life, but in the end, is that the best thing for the sport as a whole because the coverage for a sponsor would only be across the roughly, 8 weeks of the womens programme and 8 weeks of the mens programme. What most sponsors are looking for these days, is sponsorship that goes from the grassroots right through to the top of the sport.
That’s where, with the discussions that have taken place with the various partners within the last couple of years, we were committed to maximising those commercial revenues for the sport in any way we could and that was our way of doing it.
Hoopsfix: Is the adidas deal still live?
Roger Moreland: No. We’re in discussions with people at the moment, but the adidas deal finished at the end of last year.