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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK
Row threatens GB basketball hopes
By Rob Dugdale

British star Luol Deng in action for the Chicago Bulls in the NBA
Luol Deng's 2012 hopes are threatened by the row
Great Britain's chances of playing as hosts in the 2012 basketball tournament are under threat because of a row over government interference.

The government plans to oversee funding of several sports including basketball.

World governing body Fiba has branded the plans "abusive" and is threatening to ban English players, like NBA star Luol Deng, from their competitions.

"It's not right the government runs the sport like this," a high-ranking Fiba source told BBC Sport.

The row has been sparked by the government-commissioned Mallin Review, which was due to be published last November but has been delayed until July at the earliest.

England Basketball has had funding worth 325,000 frozen since September 2006 pending the outcome of the review.

The BOA wants to enter the best team with no inhibitions from anyone, including government

Lord Moynihan
Among the proposals of the latest draft of the review is the setting-up of a new governing body to replace England Basketball.

This would give the government a level of control that is unacceptable to Fiba.

It is threatening to suspend all English players from its competitions by 15 June if the government presses head with its plans.

England Basketball jointly formed the British Basketball Federation with Basketball Scotland and Basketball Wales in December 2005 to represent the country in the Olympics.

Twenty one of coach Chris Finch's 24-man Great Britain training squad are designated as English players.

This summer, Britain's men and women make their bid to qualify for the 2009 European finals - the first step towards London 2012.

In addition to Deng, who starred for Chicago in the play-offs, Britain are set to call on Dallas' Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Golden State's Kelenna Azubuike, two other NBA players.

Fiba has previously stated that only if Britain appear competitive at the top European level will they be allowed to play as Olympic hosts in 2012.

"We're not de-recognising England Basketball, we're just saying that England Basketball has to be declared fit for purpose," said the Fiba source.

We are trying to get basketball to a place where they can compete on a world stage

Tim Hollingsworth
UK Sport
"It's not unreasonable for a government to check on how money is being spent but not when the rules of the government are turned abusively against a member federation."

Fiba's concerns come on the back of criticism of government meddling voiced by British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan.

"The BOA wants to enter the best team with no inhibitions from anyone, including government," said Moynihan.

"I'm totally committed to strengthening the autonomy of governing bodies. Government's role must be to empower governing bodies, not to micro-manage the process."

UK Sport communications director Tim Hollingsworth defended the organisation's role.

"We are the body that is accountable, we are responsible to Parliament for 600 million of public funding," he said.

"We are trying to get basketball to a place where they can compete on a world stage."

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