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Soul searching bearing EBBA fruit says Codona







Elected as Chairperson of the English Basketball Association in 1999, Betty Codona has ambitious plans to take the sport into the 21st century. While some would argue the governing body is still stuck in a time warp of inefficiencies, the Sheffield Hatters matriarch intends to change both the perception and reality.

"I've looked at three key targets," illustrates Codona, "One is to continue to stabilise and build on the financial situation. Obviously the more money the more you can do. It's all about finance when all is said and done isn't it? So the finance is a critical area we want keep improving on."

"I'm a big equal opportunities person - that goes without saying I suppose - so I want all the EBBA employees , professionals people, but I'd like the EBBA to get a real grip on true opportunities. 

"And, the other thing is that we have to serve the membership. We're a membership-based organisation and if we don't serve the membership, we're not doing our job." 

Codona is also focused on raising the profile of a sport which is often accused of lacking a singular approach to its self-promotion efforts. The dissolution of basketball in the UK between the BBL and four national governing bodies may be a problem but the English figurehead reckons that no more false dawns can be allowed to pass without establishing basketball in the forefront of attention.

No longer can the differing priorities of the professional game and the EBBA be allowed to distract from that aim.

"It's vital that we put basketball on the map. I think if we miss this opportunity here and now,  it won't come again in 10 , 20 years. We have to do it now," is Codona's belief. 

"Obviously the BBL start from, and have different objectives from, the EBBA. But we have to understand each other's situation, accept it and agree to work together. That we're going to disagree on things, there's no doubt. .But that's part of a healthy relationship. The will is there in the two groups. We have to understand each other's positions more."

Much of the criticism levelled at the organisation in recent years has centred on a lack of impetus and professionalism from within. Several perceived fiascos with the men's international teams left the EBBA exposed to charges of internal amateurism. 

The Chairperson herself concedes that errors were made but hopes they can be avoided in the future.

"I think there has been a lot of soul searching and inward gazing over the last 18 months. We know that there's been mistakes made in the past. Everybody has put their hands up and then you can make a new start and say, yes, let's get a great professional league going that's popular, thatís in the limelight. Let's get basketball players playing and let's develop the game.

"There are a lot of great opportunities out there with the new programmes available - Active Sports that are coming on board, community regeneration programmes. And basketball's in great demand and we have to grasp it."

And Codona reckons that the establishment of a arms-length commercial arm - Basketball England - to manage and promote the international teams can bring long-term benefits. More commercial impetus, a more targeted agenda and a message that new ideas can stimulate growth in the sport at the other end of the spectrum.

"There is a definite initiative at the moment to make this happen," underlines the Hatters matriarch. "It is more professional. There is now a company started, Basketball England, that's got its own board, its own agenda, its own objectives. It does belong to the EBBA but it can work as separate group in its own right , to make decisions, to pull money in. 

"All we want to make sure is that it's truly equal opportunities, that it's truly going to put the England international teams where we want them to be."


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