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Former Basketball England Vice Chair and Board Member Grace Jacca (pictured above, right) has added further fuel to the notion of the sport being in a state of disarray, lambasting current Chair Clare Wardle along with CEO Stewart Kellett.
In an exclusive interview with Hoopsfix following her resignation three weeks ago, Jacca alleged there has been an inability to hold Kellett accountable, claiming she and other board members were not aware the recent hostile takeover of the British Basketball Federation was going to happen, and insisting she had no choice but to resign after not getting responses to her questions.
“I took my position seriously and out of dedication to the membership,” Jacca, who had served six years on the board, said.
“I did everything I could possibly to do conduct my duties with due diligence and transparency. Sadly, I was not afforded the same courtesy in return.
“I have prided myself on always checking, challenging, discussing all relevant points that the membership would want put forward on their behalf. I have raised issues and valid points have been highlighted to reflect the needs and wants of the membership.
“The final straw came for me when having sent emails in the correct forum, I have had to chase down responses and it reached a point I was no longer getting replies.”
When prodded on why it took her so long to act, she responded:
“I resigned because I truly believed it was the right thing to do. Yes, it is a matter of weeks before the forthcoming AGM, however, if I sit at that top table then no matter what is said and by whom; perception will always be greater than the reality. Furthermore I voted with my feet in order to communicate to the membership I am not aligned with the Chair and CEO of Basketball England.
“If I don’t speak up then I am colluding. There must be honesty, integrity and transparency. If there isn’t this needs to stop – there can be no more smoke and mirrors.”
Jacca also alleges the Board voiced concerns about Kellett toward the end of 2017 – something former BE Director John Wells corroborates – attempting to put in what amounted to a vote of no confidence.
“I tried for some months before the September meeting to have the CEO removed,” Wells told Hoopsfix.
“At this meeting there was a feeling from some of the board that the CEO should be given more time because he was returning from a period of sick leave and he was a nice man. I disagreed with this stance and said so; remember at this time the CEO had been in post for almost 2 years and I could not see what he had delivered, the end result was he was to stay in post.
“I resigned after this meeting because I believe it was the correct thing to do, I could not support the CEO and was out of step with the board.
“It was a formal board meeting. It was not titled as a vote of no confidence in the CEO but as change management item on the agenda. Most board members called in; this is the first time I can remember so many board members calling in, an unusual first.”
In Basketball England’s board meeting minutes from September 2017 there is an item on the agenda; Point 6c under Governance Action Plan, that says the board “agreed to review situation for Chair and CEO evaluation”, to be actioned by John Wells (who resigned 3 days after the meeting) and Wardle.
However, in the January 2018 minutes, the same point appears under ‘CEO Support and Review’; with the recommendations being to ‘agree on review of CEO evaluation and agree next steps’, implying nothing was executed upon from September through to at least January (January 2018 are the most recent board minutes to have been made publicly available on BE’s website) .
Basketball England are yet to respond to request for comment on why this is the case.
“Unless all the disconnected parties get together and decide a credible way forward to sort the mess out we will continue to go nowhere, at best we will stand still,” Wells continued. “I do not have answers to all of the problems that basketball faces but I do know we must have a workable and clear plan for the future that all in the basketball family, or a majority can buy into. There is no plan, no direction and no credible leadership in place at the moment to move the sport forward.”
Basketball England admit there have been Board concerns about the CEO, but claim he has been put on performance measures.
“Some Board members asked for a call and expressed concerns about the CEO, who at the time was on a phased return to work following a serious illness,” the NGB responded.
“Not all of the Board members were on the call and as such, no formal vote was taken. The matter was put later put to discussion and the Board agreed in accordance with good management practice to give the CEO additional objectives and measure his performance against them.
“The CEO has formal objectives which his performance is measured against. In order to meet those objectives, the CEO solicits the opinion of the Basketball England Board and the basketball community and he will continue to do so.”
Meanwhile, Jacca claims Board concerns are not being taken into consideration.
“I believe that increasingly there has been a distinct lack of consideration where a few people make decisions without consulting or indeed informing the rest of the Executive Board,” she claimed. “This practice goes against the governance and ethics Board members are required to uphold.”
Jacca’s resignation comes after weeks of the sport being in disrepute following the BBF ambush meeting which saw the Home Country Associations strip the federation of its powers. In that time, seven independent directors of the BBF have resigned, one member of the Basketball Scotland board has resigned, and Jacca becomes the second BE board member – joining John Wells – to walk away, along with a former employee, Melissa Hague – in the past 12 months due to an apparent unhappiness with the way business is being conducted.
“I along with the rest of the diminishing Board members did have discussions with both the Chair and CEO of Basketball England about the BBF,” Jacca said of the BBF takeover.
“I personally was unaware of any pre-phone calls between HCA Chairs that resulted in an EGM being called with the immediate dissolution of the BBF.
“Upon finding this out from various sources I actually had conversations with other Board members. As Vice-Chair I personally was not privy to this course of action taking place.”
Jacca’s account matches the words of other board members who sources close to the situation say were not aware the takeover was going to take place. However, BE refute this, stating:
“Every Board member was contacted in advance of the EGM being called. One was not available but all others were in support. ”
In addition, there was an attempted removal of the Chair by the membership which failed to make the AGM agenda; Jacca said the first time she saw the resolution in full was after publication on Hoopsfix.
“Based on the previous corporate experience of the Chair, I was enthusiastic to welcome a person with such credentials to lead both the CEO and Executive Board in negotiating favourable outcomes for the good of basketball,” Jacca commented on Wardle’s hiring.
“I honestly believed that she could be the person who could awaken this ‘sleeping giant’ and catapult this sport into a leading position. I also believed that she had the best interests of the sport in mind when she decided to apply and accept the position of Chair.
“From my personal perspective, it has become increasingly obvious that this has not proven to be the case for a multitude of reasons; I believe there was a reluctance to respond to the ‘vote of no confidence’ raised by Board members in the CEO, I believe there has been a constant ‘hand holding’ of him and inability to hold him accountable to any of his actions of lack of vigour, I believe there have been occasions of a failure to act or inform the board about decisions, (and) likewise I believe there has equally been failings to seek advice or approval of the board.”
Asked about her concerns with the current CEO, she added:
“It is my opinion that he is not capable of moving the sport forward and therefore not able to turnaround the fortunes of basketball. It is also my belief that despite considerable help at the outset of taking up the post of CEO, I do not consider him to be able to either.
“In my opinion it is an individual whose motivations appear to be driven by enhancing their public image and who frequently refuses to take any advice/guidance. I believe this behaviour fails to galvanise everyone and causes huge reputational damage to our beautiful sport.
“I believe the failings are magnified when the individual surrounds themselves with like-minded individuals who are only too happy to perpetuate what they are instructed to do so long as they too are not held accountable!
“Inevitably you would always hope that anyone who puts themselves forward for such a position would endeavour to have a good grasp of the sport. (Him) Not knowing the sport and its complexities. I perceive these actions to be intolerable!
“I believe a considerable amount of money and resources have been thrown at one individual who consistently over promises, consistently under delivers and persistently has no shame in operating in this manner. I find it incredible that ‘jobs for boys’ is commonplace and should not be allowed to happen, competencies should be of the highest standard and should come first.”
The former Vice Chair was unable to provide specifics when pushed, referring Hoopsfix to Sport England to investigate, but on the ‘jobs for boys’ comment, it is believed she is referring to former Independent Director Allan Heye stepping down from his position to take a consultancy role with BE allegedly for £50,000 over the course of six months.
When BE were questioned about this, they responded: “The Basketball England Board determined that additional capacity was required for the organisation on a temporary basis. The candidates were considered during interview and the Board approved the hire of the final candidate. The funding for the post came directly from Sport England and was ring-fenced on the condition that the appointment was an open and transparent process.”
Jacca added that Sport England have been in touch with her asking questions about the on-goings at Basketball England but were unaware at the time of contact that she had handed in her resignation.
“I cannot believe that Sport England are not aware of the discord in basketball,” she dismayed.
“Do I believe anything will be done about it? I am led to believe that both the CEO and Chair were the recommended and preferred candidates championed by Sport England. It remains to be seen if they will review any of the shortcomings alleged at BE by the BBF and the membership.”
Basketball England were contacted for comment on a variety of Jacca’s comments and responded:
“We respond to Board member queries at Board meetings and during the times in between. Some of the more complex queries can take more time to consider and indeed some may require consultation with the basketball community.
“Basketball England’s Chair updates the Board at the start of every meeting and provides all Board members every opportunity to ask questions both during and in between Board meetings. In addition, the Chair schedules additional calls between meetings whenever there are major issues to discuss.
“There was a full Board call on Monday 6 August 2018 and support for the current Chair to continue was unanimous. Grace Jacca was also kind enough to call the chairman over the weekend to offer her support before handing in her resignation on Friday 10 August 2018.
“The suggestion that the CEO is motivated by enhancing his public image is unfounded.”
Basketball England will hold their 77th Annual General Meeting this Saturday 1st September in Manchester, starting at 5pm at the NBPC.
As reported by MVP’s Mark Woods this morning, a selection of Basketball England’s membership continue to push for change, aiming to galvanise clubs to take action ahead of the AGM, ultimately intending to call an EGM where they can put forward a vote of no confidence in the current leadership.
Sport England have been contacted for comment.
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