Basketball: Our sport must make the most of any PR opportunity – Oliver Hylands

Spectator involvement with Leeds Force
Spectator involvement with Leeds Force
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In a particularly ugly weekend for basketball’s reputation, with two separate games turning into a fight, nobody outside the world of basketball seems to have noticed.

If a similar incident happened in football, it would’ve been plastered over every news outlet across the country for the next week and millions of people would be talking about it. However due to basketball usually ‘flying under the radar’, the coverage appears to be pretty non-existent.

The incident brings up the long-term question; would basketball cope with increased media attention?

Despite the fact that the events were negative, one in a BBL game and the other a Basketball England Division One game, whatever happened to the well-known phrase ‘any press is good press’. Despite nearly 48 hours passing since both games took place, there is still no word on either incident from the BBL or Basketball England. One of the videos, posted online by Bradford Dragons, is becoming popular with over 2,000 hits already.

However, nobody is using the increased attention to gain exposure. Please don’t think I am condoning violence in the game of basketball, I couldn’t be more against it, but it is no secret that people love scandal. After all, that is why soap operas are still one of the most popular forms of television in this country.

On a brighter note there are reports of a £36millon cash injection from an American investor into basketball in Britain, with a view to completely revamp and push the sport forwards. Despite the positive news that an investment like this could bring, this once again proved to be a PR disaster, with Basketball England and the BBL exchanging a war of press releases about the review of the professional licence in this country. Despite this all dying down, it has still left a slightly sour taste in the mouths of many basketball enthusiasts.

Clearly the incidents in recent weeks highlight some of the deficiencies that basketball currently faces in Britain. However, despite what could be seen as huge missed opportunities of exposure, the sport is making huge leaps and bounds in its constant battle to become as popular as the likes of football and rugby. This year’s playoff final, which will be hosted at the O2 in London, is a great statement of intent by the BBL that basketball’s popularity is growing in this country.

Our next opponents, Newcastle Eagles, who have already won the BBL Cup and are favourites to take the other two remaining trophies this season, will be focused going into the final stages of the regular season. After their emphatic win in the Trophy Semi-Final last weekend, Newcastle recorded their 12th consecutive victory and 31st win out of their last 32 games. Despite this obvious dominance of this season, Leeds Force will go into Friday’s (March 6, 7.30pm tip-off, Carnegie Sports Arena) game with absolutely nothing to lose.

With the two giant killings (London Lions and Cheshire Phoenix) in recent weeks, we know we can go into the game with the confidence to perform. It will certainly be a fantastic opportunity for anyone to see why basketball is becoming more popular, this time for all of the positive reasons. To add to the excitement, a film crew will be recording the game as a trial for what could be some very exciting news for the future of Leeds Force.

So if you are free this Friday, I would implore you to come down and see what has been entertaining hundreds of people for the last few months. With only three home games left, before we know it the season will be over and everyone will have to wait until September to get their fix.