Rising from the flames

Cheshire change name

On a cold and dark Thursday morning when winter is knocking firmly at the door, there was indescribable warmth generated from news that a Phoenix had risen from the flames in Cheshire WRITES PAUL NILSEN.

My initial reaction was a smile, a nod and then oodles of sentimentality washing over me, thrilled that on a personal level, many great people (and not least the fans and backroom staff) had been rewarded for their unwavering loyalty and personal dedication by being given the chance to play their part in saving a great BBL club. Or perhaps forming a new one – whatever way you want to describe it.

Sometimes maligned and far too readily criticised by those who don’t wipe the sleep from their eyes and look across to what is happening around Europe, the BBL must also take huge credit for their role and specifically their steadfastness and determination in ensuring top flight basketball remains in and around Cheshire.

During this almost immeasurably challenging economic climate, resilience is now the buzzword for businesses looking to not only survive but also eventually thrive. And, at times, we sometimes forget that first and foremost, both the BBL and each individual member club is of course, a business.

Resilience to economic pressure, a crisis and other similar challenges/risks arguably say much more about an organisation than how it milk things when the going is good.

It was particularly interesting that Phoenix has been announced only this week, a time when Spanish Basketball Federation President Jose Luis Saez has been reflecting

on eight years of unprecedented success since he was elected. The link to Cheshire and the BBL I hear you ask?

Well, for many years Spanish Basketball has been the flag bearer of success, both national team-wise, and also professionally through the much heralded ACB – of which I am a big fan. But, the wind has changed direction and now clubs who have been used to spending vast amounts of money via the backing of commercial sponsorship and municipal (local and regional authority) funding are having to tighten their belts in a big way, as the economic crisis threatens to tear through Spain like a whirlwind.

From the ripples being felt at the very highest level at great clubs such as Unicaja where the normally bouncing and packed Martin Carpena is now regularly half-full, to the Liga Femenina which has been badly hit and not least with EuroLeague Women champions Ros Casares now defunct.

The fact that many clubs are still, or have previously been underpinned by construction companies and banks is a big issue for obvious reasons and still evolving.Add to this, the double whammy of the well running dry for many municipal authorities who are being tarnished by stories of vast overspending on projects and fanciful white elephants (including an airport which was built but the money to operate it couldn’t be found) and times could get even tougher for Spanish basketball.

It was particularly interesting that Mr Saez spoke of the need for a more community minded approach and for a strengthening of partnerships between private and public organisations. I refer to this because it’s important on a day that we receive good news here in the BBL, we appreciate that the landscape is changing across Europe.

Meanwhile here in the UK, (in a vastly more competitive sports market) the BBL and its’ member clubs continue to face similar issues.It’s fascinating to consider that Spanish Basketball (and particularly the ACB rather than Federation) is now facing one of its’ biggest ever challenges – whether it truly has resilience and can turn these threats into opportunities.

Thankfully, the handling of the Cheshire case shows that we can be proud of the response and especially the leadership shown. We should be grateful that they have found the resilience necessary to make a difference.

Everyone will be behind this Phoenix project and I am sure will join me in wishing the club every success.

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