For episode 54 of the Hoopsfix Podcast, we took an in depth look at why more British basketball teams aren’t competing in Europe, speaking with Russell Levenston to focus on the Leicester Riders’ experience in the 2018-19 season when they played in the Basketball Champions League and FIBA Europe Cup.
Levenston is the Riders’ Managing Director, having got involved with the club in 2007, becoming a co-owner of the club alongside Kevin Routledge.
The Leicester Riders’ became the first BBL team to compete in Europe in over 11 years when they entered the Basketball Champions League qualifiers in 2018-19, going 0-2 against Danish powerhouse Bakken Bears to drop down into the FIBA Europe Cup where they were unable to pick up a win in six attempts.
Before the Riders, it was Guildford Heat in 2007-8 that last competed in Europe, in a move that almost ended up bankrupting the club. But the UK has a rich history of British teams playing in Europe, most notably in the 1995-1996 BBL season there were no less than six teams competing on the continent – why is this no longer happening?
In this 1 hour and 15 minute episode, hear from Russell on:
His background and how he ended up at the Leicester Riders
Why the Riders wanted to go into Europe
The cost and extra budget required to be able to compete on the continent
How they funded the cost
Media coverage of their European experience and how hard it was to generate interest
How they approached roster make up and why continuity was a focus
Some GB stars the Riders were close to signing prior to their European campaign
Fan interest, the challenge of mid-week games and the need to educate fans
The grueling schedule and balancing Europe with BBL games
How injuries plagued the team but the team was able to remain competitive
If they lost money on entering the European competition
Why more teams aren’t competing in Europe compared to years past
The biggest learnings the Riders are now implementing in their domestic programme
Whether the Riders have plans to re-enter European competition
The impact of COVID-19 on the BBL at the moment
Who he thinks will be the next BBL team in Europe
Whether or not he can see a situation where we end up with a EuroLeague franchise in London
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