A new scheme has been launched by the Department for Business and Trade, the Women’s Sport Investment Accelerator, in association with Deloitte’s Sports Business Group and supported by the International Working Group on Women and Sport, tobenefit elite UK women’s sport competitions. The new programme will provide a series of sessions offering marketing insights, connections and networking events alongside mentoring for rights holders (leagues, teams, competitions and events) who are looking for investment.
The application process is open to rights holders of any UK-based women’s sports leagues, teams, competitions or events aiming to attract investment and boost their growth and will run for one year starting from autumn 2023. The Women’s Super League (WSL) and the Netball Super League were among the competitions sounded out as potential beneficiaries for this scheme, however it is also hoped that it will aid the growth of often overlooked sports and leagues such as women’s basketball and the Women’s British Basketball League.
The post-2012 Olympics funding disparity for basketball, despite its popularity, high youth participation rates and being the most diverse sport in the UK, further highlights the need for a fairer and more long-term approach to funding allocation. After the London Olympics in 2012, basketball received just £9.25 per participant between 2013 and 2017 as cricket gained £70.72 and rugby union almost £60, despite both sports having fewer participants among young people.
Despite these challenges, British basketball continues to showcase its talent globally, with numerous players excelling in prestigious leagues like the NCAA’s Division I and the NBA. The Women’s British Basketball League has continued to grow at a rapid pace over the past few years with record-breaking attendances last season as the London Lions completed their second-consecutive domestic clean sweep and achieved a 52-game winning streak. The announcement of the new scheme will hopefully provide a further platform for the league and sport to grow, as the new season approaches with the Lions building one of the most impressive rosters ever seen in British basketball.
The sport’s popularity remains strong among the British population, making it one of the nation’s top team sports after football as according to the Active Lives survey, more than one million Brits regularly play basketball while 14% of those aged 18-34 play it every week. However, the lack of appropriate funding for British basketball hampers its growth and potential to develop further talent. Adding to this, research from The London Lions – one of the UK’s premier basketball clubs – shows that 26% of Brits would like to play more and watch more basketball in the UK.
Vanja Cernivec, General Manager of the London Lions women’s team comments:
“The first thing that needs to be addressed is that women’s sport needs to develop high-level coaches alongside investment into the performance staff and facilities. By investing in the national teams, it will also enhance the number of role models for young sports players in women’s sport. But I think it all comes back to investing into coaches in the sport specific side and also on the performance side. Also, for high-level athletes to be exposed to international competitions. Not only government funding is needed, but also private funding – I think companies need to realise the potential of women’s sport, it cannot be popular if it’s not accessible and not on tv.
“There is a lot that we can do in the sporting eco-system and I think we are only scratching the surface of the potential of women’s sport, not only women being professional athletes but also women being coaches and involved in the business side of sport. The one thing that needs to be focused on is sharing the stories of successful women in sport so that young girls and boys can identify with their stories and see it as something possible to emulate. Adding to this, investing in girls and women is important at some stage I hope it is the norm that whatever is invested in men’s sport is also invested in women’s.”