This Thursday, Brits will be called upon to vote in the EU referendum – whether or not the UK should remain part of the European Union. You might have seen the numerous talk shows, campaigns or you may have even been involved in a debate discussing the political, social and economic points regarding the topic.
With the UK’s basketball community growing, I’m sure that there is equally a growing number of those interested in knowing the potential impact Brexit can have on the beloved sport here. Hopefully this article can bring some insight. I personally plan to vote in favour of remaining in the EU, as I believe that the cons of leaving outweigh the pros.
So how could leaving the EU impact basketball in the UK?
What Brexit could mean for : Domestic Competition
An exit from the EU would likely result in some new laws being passed surrounding the freedom of movement associated with the Bosman ruling (see below). On one hand, an agreement similar to that with Switzerland could be agreed, whereby the current rules could remain unchanged. However, there’s a likelihood that freedom of movement agreements will be completely abolished, thus restrictions on EU players within the NBL and BBL become tighter.
Such an outcome would essentially pose new recruitment challenges for NBL and BBL clubs.
Bosman Ruling 1995
The Bosman ruling is an EU law that currently prohibits any restrictions on movement of athletes within national leagues, providing they are the holder of an EU or Swiss passport. This law was passed in 1995, after a Belgian footballer named Jean-Marc Bosman was prohibited by his club to transfer from Belgian club RFC Leige to the French first division. In the outcome of a lengthy lawsuit between Bosman and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the European Court of Justice deemed that quotas on foreign players could only be imposed on non-EU players.
In European basketball, players can be placed into three categories:
Bosman A – EU Passport holders + Swiss nationals
Bosman B – All other European passport holders (Israel, Turkey, Serbia, etc)
Non National – Rest of the world (American, Canadian, Australian, etc)
British Basketball Structures: The Rules
Currently, the British Basketball League (BBL) and Basketball England’s National Basketball League impose two different sets of rules regarding imported players.
Clubs are permitted to have five non British passport holders on their roster, three of whom can be non-nationals or Bosman B passport holders. There were only 10 EU passport holders (outside of the British players) on BBL rosters at the end of the regular season. This is relatively small but expected given the expectation for clubs to use their permitted import spots on three Americans and the remaining two on nationalised Brits or EU passport holders.
In the NBL, things are very different – clubs are permitted as many EU players as they wish; the only limit imposed is that clubs can only have two non-nationals or Bosman B players on a game day roster in Division One; and one in the lower leagues. There were 26 non-British EU passport holders in Division One the UK this season, largely down to East London based all-Lithuanian side London Lituanica.*
More Opportunities for Brit Ballers, Better Competition Domestically
Brexit might result in more opportunities for British players to come home and play in the BBL. With fewer opportunities in Europe, more of our higher calibre talent could end up on BBL rosters, making the league more competitive, with a domino-effect down to the lower leagues.
With tighter rules regarding import players imposed, this may pave way for more opportunities for British players, particularly in the NBL. There is also the chance that the gap between the lower leagues and NBL1 could reduce significantly, as clubs have a smaller pool of talent to chose from, given the minimal budgets UK basketball clubs operate under (in comparison to the rest of Europe).
What Brexit could mean for: Brits Overseas
Brexit could also potentially impact current and future Brits playing or aspiring to ply their trade in Europe. Germany, Spain and Italy appear to be most popular destinations for British basketball players playing overseas*, something which is attributable to the Bosman Ruling permitting freedom of movement within EU member states. Not to say that these players are only signing deals because their passport is red; talent and marketing of these said players are also important factors but it would be naïve to say that being excluded from the “Non-EU” quotas doesn’t help.
So what could an exit from the EU mean for these players?
Our top players may now be somewhat overlooked for job opportunities – due to now being thrown into the same selection pool as the non-EU players. They may become less desirable to clubs and even resort to playing in leagues inferior to their ability.
For us to be able to compete on the global stage, it is simple –our national team’s players need to compete with the best during the season!
-Let’s put what I’m saying into perspective…
I want the British basketball coaches, general managers and owners, who deal with player recruitment, particularly in the BBL/NBL D1/D2 to go through your inbox and count the number of non-EU players who contacted you regarding team spots.
Then count how many of them you signed for this season versus the talented ones you would have signed had there been no restrictions on imports. The latter represents what some of our talented British players could experience, should we exit the EU
It could also signal the end of many players’ dreams, who now have a bigger pool of talent to compete with to get one of few professional contracts available in Europe (when compared to number of players seeking them).
It is also worth noting that some Bosman B countries, where EU passport holders are classed as non-nationals, have very strong domestic leagues with rules in place for imports (e.g. Turkey, Israel and Serbia). However, as stakeholders of British basketball, we all know how far away our sport is from reaching the commercial and cultural heights of those countries.
Perhaps Brexit could be the catalyst for such emergence? What are your thoughts on Brexit and Basketball?
-Written by Chuck Duru (@Trey_Ball10)
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*according to Eurobasket.com
About Chuck Duru
Chuck Duru is currently a master’s student of Operations Management at the University of Newcastle, where he helped the basketball team get promoted to BUCS North Premier, the same team that recently got promoted to NBL2 for the 16/17 season. He also has interests in the commercial side of basketball.
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