The four independent national basketball associations of Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland are each separately affiliated to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). As such they each participate separately in European championships, nominate officials for international licenses, and represent and vote at World and European Conferences. However qualification for the Olympic Games can only be by Great Britain and a united team is required. The British & Irish Basketball Federation (BIBF), with substantial grant aid from the Sports Council, was responsible for the preparation and participation of Great Britain teams in Olympic qualifying tournaments until 1992. In 1993 FIBA abolished the qualifying tournaments. By 2004, with Northern Ireland an integral part of the all-Ireland basketball association, and the BIBF no longer fielding British teams, Ireland resigned from the BIBF. In October 2004 the BIBF changed its name to Great Britain Basketball and altered its membership structure to include British basketball organisations as members.
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The concept of combining, in order to field basketball teams representing Great Britain for the first time since 1992, was discussed by representatives of the governing bodies for Scotland, England and Wales in May 2005 while attending the Annual Congress for FIBA Europe. It was felt that in the short-term (2006-2007) it would be best for the three home countries to enter their senior teams at the highest level possible, this would see both the Scotland and England senior men’s teams entering the European “B” Division in 2006 with the England women’s team doing the same. For the following championship round (2008-2009) the countries would combine and enter as Great Britain – if approved by FIBA and FIBA Europe.
On 27 September 2005, following the awarding of the Olympic Games to London in 2012, the British Olympic Association invited the representatives of the governing bodies for Scotland, England and Wales to meet with them. Others in attendance included representatives for the world governing body for basketball (FIBA) and the governing body for Europe (FIBA Europe). After being informed of the plans of the three home country governing bodies to enter and/or re-enter senior teams to the European Championships in 2006 a clear indication was given that this would not be quick enough. Simon Clegg, the Chief Executive for the BOA, stated, “if we don’t move quickly I seriously doubt that basketball will be in the 2012 Olympics”. Patrick Baumann, the General Secretary of FIBA, endorsed this statement at some length. This led to England offering to enter the England senior men’s and women’s teams into European competition for 2006 on the proviso that these teams would become Great Britain (a) if agreed by FIBA and FIBA Europe, and (b) if the governing bodies for Scotland, England and Wales endorsed this action. Mr Clegg then gave the three home countries the direction to produce a “memorandum of understanding along with a performance plan, clear appointment procedures, etc.”
On 29 November 2005, with FIBA Europe Secretary General Nar Zanolin in attendance, representatives from the basketball associations of Scotland, England and Wales met, ratified and signed the requested Memorandum of Understanding. Key features of the document are summarised as follows:
To resurrect the original structure of the British & Irish Basketball Federation as a legal entity (i.e. the British Basketball Federation) with the governing bodies for basketball in Wales, Scotland and England as the only members, in order:
- To work together to develop, promote, fund and prepare male and female basketball teams to represent Great Britain in international competition, especially the Olympic Games for which competition the three home countries are not eligible to enter in their own right.
- To be the vehicle for funding applications to UK Sport and other public funding authorities, applications for sponsorship and negotiations for television coverage for basketball teams representing Great Britain as covered by this agreement.
- To plan and provide policies, strategies and appointment procedures for the development and preparation of British teams.
- To achieve the immediate necessity to meet the criteria set by the British Olympic Association for Great Britain men’s and women’s teams to compete at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
- To leave a legacy for the benefit of basketball in Great Britain following the 2012 London Olympic Games.
- To provide a representative for basketball on the British Olympic Association – if invited.
MEMBERSHIP AND EUROPEAN COMPETITION:
- England will enter the FIBA Europe 2006-2007 “B” Division competitions for senior men and women. Following the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding, and if permitted by FIBA Europe, these teams will be replaced by teams representing Great Britain.
- With the permission of FIBA Europe, the basketball associations of Scotland and Wales will retain their eligibility to enter FIBA Europe senior competitions at a lower level than that of the respective Great Britain senior teams.
- To assist the development of senior teams, and if permitted by FIBA Europe, age-group teams for Under-20 and older, will be representative of Great Britain.
- Age-group teams for Under-18, Under-16 and Under-14 FIBA Europe competitions will continue to represent the individual home countries of Wales, Scotland and England.
- Players who represent Great Britain in FIBA Europe competition in a specific basketball season may not compete for their respective home country in the particular category or age-group in FIBA Europe competition during that season.
- The governing bodies for basketball in Scotland, England and Wales will continue to be the affiliated members of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and FIBA Europe.