Basketball League

Budweiser League  


Changing venues is fair game for clubs

Basketball League clubs have never been renowned for their loyalty to one venue or another and in recent years, that trend has developed still further with team swapping cities or splitting their matches between two or even three separate sites.

Witness the Bears' move to Brighton this summer, exchanging a grotty hall which was unsuitable for TV coverage for a modern camera-friendly arena. However the Sussex side may only be the first of many future re-locations.

Chester have long been linked with a move down the motorway to Liverpool, where a large 3000 seater arena is under preparation with Liverpool University. With Northgate Arena already a liability to the small-market Jets, a transfer to the Mersey would increase the catchment area of the club. However would the fans approve ? Jets' bosses argue that financial reality might leave them without a choice.

Many other franchises are casting an envious eye over the arena facilities available to teams like Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. But big is not always beautiful as Greater London Leopards have discovered. Playing to relatively small crowds in the newly enlarged London Arena has meant a heavy financial burden on the club's owners. More and more games have moved to the more intimate surroundings of the Brentwood Leisure Centre and even to Southend. It is a trend which will increase still further for the millennium season although future hopes of the club building its own medium-sized facility in Thurrock appear yet to be at an early stage. 

Cross-town rivals Towers will also concentrate their games against next time at Crystal Palace, Wembley's cost and lack of availability proving unduly restrictive. And although kudos must go to Sheffield for actually increasing the amount of fixtures held at the Arena rather than Ponds Forge, only time will tell whether their pockets will lose out.

For Derby though, the future is bright and is not to far away with the opening of the purpose built Storm Centre on the horizon. Designed to allow the club to host TV and showpiece games, the franchise is now a model for many of its contemporaries. Clubs like Milton Keynes and Thames Valley have declared similar intentions. 

In the end, money will talk and only more fans, more sponsorship and more revenue will allow an improvement in facilities which supporters and financiers alike will surely welcome. But only as long as a nationwide jumping fro one city to another NBA-style is not unleashed. That really would alienate the long-suffering punter.

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