LONDON, March 13 (Reuters) - British basketball teams will compete at the London 2012 Olympics after governing body FIBA agreed on Sunday to give automatic places to the men’s and women’s squads and spare them a tricky qualification process.
The decision, taken by FIBA’s central board at a meeting in Lyon, means Britain will be represented in an Olympic tournament for the first time since 1948, when London last hosted the Games.
It also means that Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng will get to play in the Olympics for his adopted country.
However, basketball’s governing body laced its announcement with a warning that it is still not happy with the way the sport is governed in Britain -- a major sticking point in the decision to allow British teams to compete.
“The central board took a vote on the following proposal: yes, both men’s and women’s teams should play at the Olympic Games, but on the condition that by 30th June 2012, British Basketball and the home nations (England, Scotland and Wales) figure out the best way for the future governance of the sport,” FIBA said in a statement.
“The British Basketball Federation and the home nations have until that date to decide what mode of governance they want to go forward with after the Olympic Games end.”
Basketball is the only sport at the 2012 Games in which Britain’s participation depends on the sport’s governing body rather than the British Olympic Association (BOA), who, as hosts, are invited to enter teams in all sports.
While FIBA have been impressed with Britain’s progress on the court, there has been concern about British Basketball acting as an umbrella organisation for the England, Scotland and Wales basketball associations -- a situation FIBA said it would tolerate until 2012.
“We cannot move forward indefinitely with this hybrid model,” FIBA’s secretary general, Patrick Baumann, said last week. “If Britain wants to compete at international level as Team GB then it can only have one representative in the future.”
He also stated his desire that the 2012 Games would not be just a flash in the pan for British basketball, saying the country’s position in the sport had been “non existent”.
“This is why the British basketball family needs to produce a clear legacy plan, spelling out its vision for years to come, long after the memories of London have begun to fade,” he said.
“It would be a crying shame for a whole generation of youngsters to be enthused by the 2012 basketball tournament only to find they have few opportunities to play the game themselves after the Olympic torch has been passed on.”
The BOA said it welcomed the news that Britain’s teams had qualified for the Olympics and will not have to earn their places via next year’s Euro Basket tournaments.
“We are delighted that FIBA has rightfully given both the men’s and women’s British basketball teams the opportunity to compete for Team GB in front of an enthusiastic home crowd at the London 2012 Olympic Games,” BOA chief executive Andy Hunt said in a statement on Sunday.
“Today’s decision is recognition of the excellent progress made by British Basketball on and off the court over the last five years and represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the sport to significantly increase its participation and profile, and leave a lasting legacy throughout the UK.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Stephen Wood
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