- National Teams
Basketball England (BE) interim CEO Mark Clark has said he is excited for the opportunity for the sport going forward, having taken over the National Governing Body (NGB) from Huw Morgan who resigned last week.
Talking to Hoopsfix on Wednesday, Clark said he will split his time between London and Sheffield (spending 3 days a week at Basketball England’s EIS office), while trying to lead the NGB through one of its most tumultuous, but opportunity filled times in recent memory.
He will be focusing on three main priorities during his stint at the helm; managing the current staff to be able to do their jobs, overseeing the potential private investment into the sport, and ensuring that Sport England are pleased with the governance of BE so they can release further money to the sport.
Of course, all of this while recruiting a full time CEO, a process that has already started.
Clark says at this point in time he has no plans to take on the full time role of CEO (though did say “never say never”), instead wanting to help Basketball England to “work out what type of organisation they are going to be moving forward,” to best recruit for the role.
He believes that they need to recruit a top quality manager for the position. “Money doesn’t resolve the issue,” he said, referring to the potential private investment that the new CEO would have to oversee. “You still have to deliver the programmes and that comes down to individuals.”
An appointed BE Director as of the end of last year, Clark not only has basketball credentials, but was formerly involved at a senior management level in local government.
He is currently the Director of the GB Regional Institute, Barking Abbey, while also the Head Coach of the WBBL Barking Abbey squad, and former Head Coach of the GB Senior Women’s squad. Basketball pedigree runs in the family, with his wife, Claire, being a former Senior international, and his son, Dan, and daughter, Ella, being involved with the GB Senior squads.
His appointment comes amidst the controversy of three former Independent Directors, and now the former CEO, Huw Morgan, stepping down over their involvement in Bball UK – a private US backed entity attempting to funnel £36million into the sport.
Clark admits there have been flaws in the managing of the board members’ departures, but he is determined to look forward instead of getting caught up in the politics of a process he said would be “foolish” to describe as perfect or a shining example of how it should be done.
“It would be foolish to say that the process has been perfect and has been something that could be used as an example of how you should follow it,” he reflected, aware that on the surface it doesn’t look great.
“But in saying that, the investment opportunity materialised at relatively short notice, therefore I think the actions the board of Basketball England took to control the risk and conflicts of interest are ok. The circumstances before that and around that are not ideal; I don’t think anyone’s saying they are – they’re not.”
The conflicts were managed as well as they could be, he said, but as the negotiations with Bball UK progressed, it remained impossible for Morgan to stay in his position should he want to be involved with the private company.
In Morgan’s defence, Clark said he has only done exactly what was asked of him when he was hired.
“He was asked to come in and commercialise the sport, he was asked to make Basketball England a more commercial organisation, and you could argue quite clearly that the model he has been party to developing does that.
“Only time will tell when people look back to see how effective his time was across the board, but in terms of what he’s been asked to do, he’s done that. How he’s done it will be discussed with many different perspectives on the process that’s been followed but you can’t argue with the fact he’s identified money that the sport would never have contemplated 18 months ago.”
There has been two newly appointed independent directors who will attend their first board meeting on Monday to replace the departed Bball UK team, Russ Lidstone and Allan Heye, bringing senior management, finance, PR and marketing experience to the Board. The hunt is still on for a third, specifically with a legal background.
The communication and transparency around the departed directors, Bball UK and the investment money could have been improved Mark relented, but says due to the commercial nature of the conversations the NGB did the best they could in the circumstances.
“When BE were made aware of the investment opportunity, there have been a number of official press releases; there could have been more communication perhaps, but I think you’re looking at a situation that the nature of the communication, the nature of threats from one party or another meant that communication is difficult.
“You can always communicate better, but in the circumstances, it’s hard to see what other information could have been made public until now.”
Pressed on where the release is announcing the resigning of Huw and his own hiring, “that’s a really good question! It’s supposed to be today.”
The release was published on Thursday afternoon.
Having just finished in a meeting on Wednesday with a number of the game’s major stakeholders, Clark believes the sport is in a better cooperative state than it has ever been – a direct result of being forced to have to sit at the same table to work together to realise the investment.
“This is an opportunity for the whole sport, it’s something we should be excited about,” he enthused.
“All the things that people have said for the last however many years about the potential the sport has, this might give us the opportunity to work towards that.
“But it’ll only happen if we take it positively as a sport. There are going to be aspects of these negotiations that all sorts of people will have issues with, I accept that, (but) we won’t do anything, the pro clubs, our home nations and GB, are not going to actually do anything that’s going to disadvantage the sport.
“We’re going to come out of the back end of this negotiation in a better place as a sport, we might not be a penny better off, but we’re already going to be a better place as a sport and that will give us other opportunities if this one doesn’t materialise.”