A who's who of British Basketball gathered in Parliament yesterday to launch the sport's strategy for increasing participation in the run up to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
Keen Newcastle Eagles fan Sharon Hodgson was joined by members of the Great Britain men's and women's basketball teams as she hosted an event which was attended by the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Ben Bradshaw, the Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, and a large number of Members of Parliament.
Britain's biggest basketball organisations came together to convince parliamentarians of the need to work together in an effort to unlock the potential of the sport in every local community across the country. Basketball's leaders cited two main challenges for the next three years:
1. To increase the game's media profile throughout Britain, and
2. To improve the affordability and access to indoor sports facilities across the country.
England Basketball Chair, Alison Muir, expressed her delight at the excellent number of key people attending the function and commented that she "was proud to be associated with a sport that is totally inclusive and is so popular with people of all ages throughout the world, including throughout Great Britain."
British Basketball Chair Roger Moreland expressed: "The event showed how all basketball partners working together can get more people playing and also drive to achieve Olympic success. We were delighted with the House of Commons support shown by MPs and we look forward to working together with a collective aim for the sport".
Paul Blake, Chair of the British Basketball League, said: "The event just goes to show the positive spirit surrounding the sport at the moment. We had a great attendance and there was clear interest and enthusiasm for the sport from a number of MPs which can only be good for the future of the sport in Britain."
Sophie Goldschmidt, NBA EMEA Managing Director said: "The future formation of basketball's All-Party Parliamentary Group signifies government's support of the game and continues the momentum of England Basketball, British Basketball, the British Basketball League, the NBA and Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball as we continue our commitment to further grow basketball in the U.K.".
Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Association secretary Steve Spilka stated "Wheelchair basketball welcomes an approach of joint working between the various bodies involved with the sports of basketball and wheelchair basketball. There is an opportunity to share good practice and work in partnership to achieve our ultimate goals of growth, quality experiences for our members and for the national teams to perform at the highest level. We believe the reception at Portculis House is a big move in the right direction".
Minister for the Olympics Tessa Jowell said: "I am delighted to see that Great Britain Basketball is growing in prominence and I look forward with eager anticipation to seeing our men's and women's teams, both able bodied and wheelchair, compete with credible performances in London in 2012.
Sharon Hodgson MP said: "I've been keeping an eye on the progress of Basketball in Britain for a while now having played when I was at high school. There are some great people involved in the game and I know that they are keen to work together to realise the sport's potential. Thanks to Sport England and the Government there are several new projects up and running and I am sure we will soon start to see the difference they can make. I wish everyone involved every success."
Great Britain Men's Basketball Team head off to Poland in September to compete in Eurobasket 2009, basketball's version of the European Championships. It is the first time in over 30 years that the senior team has reached the finals event. The finals are preceded by a warm up tournament taking place at the 02 on 14- 16 August featuring Great Britain, Poland, Turkey and Israel. For ticket information visit www.gameongb.com or call 0844 856 0202