GiveToLocal: When can basketball players in England expect to return to action in indoor and outdoor settings?
Basketball England: Players returned to outdoor settings at the end of March with a maximum of 30 people on court. Our Return To Play map sets out the potential dates of the phased return in greater detail but we’re excited to get basketball back up and starting again.
GiveToLocal: How safe will it be for players to return to action?
BE: Our Return To Play guidance is extremely thorough and we’ve taken the approach of minimising any risk where possible. Guidance in place such as wearing masks, sanitising and distancing all help towards a safe return of the sport. The added benefit of the vaccine now being rolled out nationally means it’s even safer to return. We do recognise that some members will be hesitant in terms of returning to basketball but there’s no pressure to do so immediately if individuals don’t feel comfortable.
GiveToLocal: How much of a challenge has it been for Basketball England to prepare for a return to sport following a year of unprecedented disruption?
BE: This year has obviously been like no other and having to cancel the regular playing season and basketball activity has been extremely difficult. We’ve worked closely with the government with regard to our Return To Play guidance and, given the latest information about lockdown easing, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve been grateful for funding from Sport England to help with various areas of basketball and, in particular, the £300,000 that has been awarded as part of the Tackling Inequalities Fund. That’s helping to support clubs and organisations at the grassroots level of the game.
GiveToLocal: How much enthusiasm is there for a return to basketball across the country?
BE: To say ‘an incredible amount’ is an understatement! The basketball community is extremely excited to get back to playing the sport. It’s an outlet for many people to express themselves, keep fit physically and mentally and it has a great social aspect. It’s still important that we play our part in safely bringing the sport — and society — out of lockdown by following Covid 19 guidelines but it’s exciting to get balls bouncing on courts again.
GiveToLocal: Are you concerned that there will be a drop off in numbers of players compared to pre-pandemic numbers or do you anticipate an increased demand to play basketball?
BE: This is difficult to gauge. We know there will be a level of trepidation in terms of getting back playing again. However, we still continue to receive enquiries about various participation programmes as well as the creation of new clubs. Basketball is such an inclusive and exciting sport that our clubs, in particular, impact greatly on their local communities and offer the opportunity for people to be physically active after a period of lockdown.
GiveToLocal: How have you been communicating with Basketball England members during the last 12 months?
BE: We’ve changed some internal processes for communication through a new software system and we’ve been able to Zoom, call and talk to more members than ever. In terms of offering club support, we’ve been able to help guide clubs in relation to their own development and communicate the updated Return To Play guidance. It’s important that we still maintain communication with members and constantly improve the way that we do that. Social media has been a major outlet for us in promoting the activity that has been able to go on and we’ll continue to use this as a primary means of communication going forward.
GiveToLocal: Can you describe some of the toughest challenges your members have faced during the last 12 months?
BE: Aside from not being able to play the sport they love, it’s the wider impact of Covid 19 that has been the toughest challenge for members. Whether that’s a reduction in their income due to furlough and redundancies or the stresses of home schooling and everything in between — there have been a number of challenges. This impacts on the sport itself and poses some barriers. But we want to try to make our sport as accessible as possible to our members and further afield so that the sport can have a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing — physically, mentally and emotionally. For some of our clubs, trying to stay afloat financially has been a difficult road to navigate.
GiveToLocal: As a governing body what are the toughest challenges (beyond the return to sport) that Basketball England has faced since March 2020?
BE: Like many governing bodies, we’ve been hit financially by Covid 19. We’ve had to take tough decisions around reducing staffing numbers as well as placing some staff on furlough, which we continue to do now. As a membership organisation, we rely on members affiliating to Basketball England. However, due to the year we’ve had, this has been extremely difficult. Delivery of services has also been a challenge.
GiveToLocal: How has basketball in England been supported by additional/emergency funding during the last 12 months?
BE: We’ve received funding from Sport England during the last 12 months to help ease the financial strain on ourselves as well as the club network. It’s been vital in terms of supporting elite activity and grassroots basketball when it’s been able to go ahead.
GiveToLocal: Do you anticipate a shortfall in income across the board and the need for clubs and their members/volunteers to raise additional funds during the next few weeks and months?
BE: Fundraising, even before Covid-19, was vital. Clubs and organisations survive and thrive as a result of raising additional funds whether that’s through grants, sponsorship, membership fees or other methods. It’s key to be aware of funding opportunities that are available and to seek support and guidance from organisations like Basketball England and local Active Partnerships.
GiveToLocal: How can an organisation like GiveToLocal help basketball clubs and their members to look forward to a bright future?
BE: GiveToLocal offers the opportunity for clubs to develop relationships with businesses and organisations in order to help those clubs become financially sustainable. By using the GiveToLocal platform, clubs can generate sustainable funding and demonstrate the impact that financial support has on members and the wider community.
GiveToLocal: Is the future bright for basketball in England?
BE: Very much so. With major sporting events such as the Olympics and 2022 Commonwealth Games — taking place in Birmingham — shining a spotlight on basketball, we have to ensure that, more than ever, the sport is accessible and inclusive. In conjunction with Birmingham 2022, there’s an emphasis on the 3x3 version of the game and that’s something that we’re working to promote and support across the country.