London Capital coach Milek Jivens has urged the BBL not to eject his club from the league this summer, despite yet another campaign at the bottom of the standings.
Multiple sources within the BBL have suggested that the struggling franchise will again be put on review amid ongoing concerns over its financial viability off the court and its competitiveness on it.
That, says Jivens, would be a mistake. He believes huge strides have been made since 12 months ago when league bosses sent in a small task force to improve matters behind the scenes. Now London has three full-time players and a more settled rotation than the whoever-turns-up approach that plagued their previous campaign. While they remain a dead-cert victory for the leading teams, the American views a platform that should be developed, rather than ripped apart.
“I don’t think we play bad basketball,” said Jivens. “We’re still exciting. It’s just the consistency of it. It would be a big loss. London needs a basketball team. London needs a couple of basketball teams. But it’s expensive so it’s hard to keep a team going.
“It needs it though, not just for a business standpoint, but also for the kids so they can have something to look up to. You’ve got the Division One clubs and the D2 ones. But kids want to see players from America or elsewhere abroad.”
Counting against the Capital is the tiny crowds the club have attracted to Willesden during their top-flight existence, often amounting to three men and a small dog. With the 2012 Olympics on the horizon, BBL chiefs concede they need a shop window in the capital to attract sponsors and media – and attain credibility. That, however, may require time and money.
“It would be beneficial because the spotlight is there,” Jivens observes. “When the Towers and Leopards were here, there was a big light on them. Now they’re shying away from us a bit. They’re saying ‘that’s the dark team of the league’. It would be huge to establish us because you have so many communities in London. You can hit all kinds of targets in London.“
With less than two months of the season left, are we seeing the last embers of the Capital’s flame? Teams who finish in the bottom two have, under league rules, no protection against being voted out by a majority on the board. While it is unlikely London can haul themselves, statistically, to safety, Jivens is hoping that performances on the floor can strengthen the case for survival.
“We want to improve on last year but we already have three wins which is one more than last season,” the American said. “But I want us to play good basketball towards the end so we have something to build on. We’re learning from all our scrapping. It’s better than being blown out every time. It’s more worthwhile.”