Great Britain Win Major Game Off The Court

03 December 2008
Great Britain's men showed their worth in EuroBasket qualifying by winning their group to reach next year's Final Round in Poland.

On Wednesday, the country threw its full support behind the national side guaranteeing £8.7million in funding over the next four years in the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics.

Instead of being hit with a big reduction in financial backing because of a shortfall in money at UK Sport, basketball has enjoyed an increase on previous levels.

"This funding provides us with a great platform from which to build on our great progress to date," said Chris Spice, the performance director of British Basketball.

"Our men's program is growing in stature in Europe's elite and our women's squad has an important challenge ahead in January to protect our Division A status."

Britain has been on a high since their promotion from EuroBasket Division B in 2007.

Sudan-born Luol Deng, who moved to London as a boy and learned the game in Britain before embarking on a successful career in America where he currently plays for the Chicago Bulls, received his passport in time to play in the second part of the Division B campaign and he helped fire the team to promotion to Division A.

This year, Deng and Co surprised many by winning their qualifying group to book a place at EuroBasket 2009 in Poland.

The confirmation of their funding up to the London Games ensures that the national team has the finances to run a program, and also gives everyone involved in the game the confidence that the country is fully behind the sport.

Bill McInnes, the chairman of British Basketball who once played the game for Scotland and Great Britain, said: "This represents a great opportunity for Great Britain to establish our teams in the game's elite. It also signals to the Home Basketball Associations the commitment by the government to growing the game.

"In response, we must get behind British Basketball's performance strategy ("Game On"), in a way we have never done before. This award represents a huge endorsement of the potential of the game. Everyone is delighted with award and fully accept the responsibility placed on us to perform."

Great Britain have yet to be told by basketball's world governing body FIBA that they will be allowed to take up their spots normally reserved for host nations at the London Games.

Wednesday's announcement could help their cause.

FIBA said when the Olympics were awarded to London that they wanted to be convinced that Britain would be able to put competitive teams on the floor before confirming their participation.

"With this vote of confidence comes great responsibility and pressure to perform which is the business we're in," Spice said. "We relish the challenge to perform successfully in 2012 and leave behind a lasting legacy for elite level basketball in Britain."

Great Britain's women will attempt to avoid relegation in January with games against Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Finland.

Britain's men, meanwhile, will take on world champions Spain, former champs Serbia and European powerhouse Slovenia next year at the EuroBasket in Poland.




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