Why isn’t basketball more popular in England and the United Kingdom?

The worldwide popularity of basketball has grown significantly over the last couple decades. All across Europe, Asia and Latin America, the sport isn’t only being played more often, but the marketability of the NBA has spurred global recognition of hoops. Today, we’ll look at why basketball hasn’t picked up as quickly in England and the United Kingdom.

The sport in the UK has always suffered at the hands of the more established sports, with football, rugby and cricket dominating the back pages, but it is still in decent health.

What is the current state of basketball in the UK?

The British Basketball League (BBL) is the backbone of the sport in the UK and continues to thrive having been founded in 1987.

While team names such as Newcastle Eagles, Leicester Riders and Glasgow Rocks might not have the same ring as Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur, they are equally as important to hoops fans that follow them week in week out.

Basketball is one of the big four sports in the USA – along with baseball, American football and ice hockey – but, although it has thrived in some European countries, it has never really grown that much in the British consciousness and remains a peripheral sport to some extent.

A lack of media coverage has hardly helped but the fact that the BBC have decided to stream matches on their website and app is a huge bonus to the league and trying to introduce new fans to basketball is clearly the way forward and BT Sport showing up to seven live NBA games per week has helped.

It would never be suggested that the standard in the BBL is anywhere near that of their American counterparts, but getting a few youngsters hooked on a sport via the TV may well lead to higher attendances at domestic matches.

That fact was borne out with the record-breaking attendances seen at the BBL Finals on May 14 this year when Leicester beat Essex Eagles 84-63 to take the title at London’s O2 Arena.

Lack of Resources for Basketball

While sponsorship is not an issue for the NBA, companies have been reluctant to become too involved with British basketball over the years although that is now improving.

With more than 200,000 people regularly playing basketball on a weekly basis throughout the country, and more than half of them from black or multi-ethnic backgrounds, there is surely potential for more sponsors to get on board in an attempt to push the sport to an even greater level and audience.

There is plenty of literature on the current basketball scene, both the written variety and online, while Bet and Skill have the lowdown on the best betting sites and plenty of tips for those who fancy a flutter on the hoops.

A lack of Olympic success for the Great Britain basketball teams led to UK Sport deciding in February 2014 to withdraw financial support worth £7m over four years. Having finished ninth at London 2012, Team GB failed to qualify for Rio four years later while they failed to win a single match during EuroBasket 2017.

Clearly there are problems at national level, with the Brits suffering from a lack of strength in depth and real talent while the influx of foreigners playing in the domestic league has not helped.

But maybe it is case that the domestic game, as it is in the USA, is of far more importance that the national team and, anyone who was at the O2 earlier this year can testify that the BBL is doing just fine.

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