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OPINION: Investment into Gloucester Knights is an example of why UK Basketball is on the brink of greatness

The co-chairman of Gloucester City AFC, Alex Petheram, has recently invested heavily into the city’s basketball team, Gloucester Knights, marking a major landmark in the future of Gloucestershire sport.

The aim of Petheram’s co-ownership and investment is to get the Knights into the top division of Basketball in the UK to the British Basketball League (BBL), which is currently made up of 11 teams including Bristol Flyers Basketball, who like Gloucester, have big plans for a football and basketball relationship.

Bristol Flyers, part of the Bristol Sport family alongside Bristol City Football Club and Bristol Bears Rugby, have plans to build a 4,000 capacity arena next to Ashton Gate, home of Bristol City and Bears, making a state-of-the-art sporting quarter. Petheram has idea’s to do similar to Bristol, with plans in place to build an arena for the Knights next to New Meadow Park.

Currently in the National Basketball League Division Three South West, the Knights are playing their home fixtures at St Peter’s High School in Tuffley.

“The Bristol Sport model is a great model and they’re doing fantastically well down there,” said Petheram.

Over the last decade or so, the BBL and basketball in the UK has had a rapid growth in interest, most recently resulting in a lucrative deal for the BBL to be shown on Sky Sports.

The BBL was established in 1987 and grew in popularity in the early 1990’s – the same time as the Chicago Bulls’ dominance in the early ’90s which saw NBA Legend Michael Jordan burst onto the scene.

Last year’s BBL finals saw a record-breaking attendance for a BBL match when nearly 9,300 people watched the final in Birmingham between the Bristol Flyers and Worcester Wolves.

So, why is there a sudden interest and investment into basketball in the UK?

There’s no coincidence to why it’s the most popular sport in the USA, with Insider Sport reporting that coverage of the NBA 2020 season’s matches were broadcast across TNT, ESPN, and ABC, collectively delivering over 81.5 million hours of viewership, representing a 95% increase in the NBA’s viewing figures from the 2019 season.

From the fast-paced back-and-forth action to the popular culture surrounding the sport, it fills a gap in the UK sporting market. The NBA is undeniably big in the UK, with the last NBA London-based match selling out all 20,000 tickets in under half an hour. With more coverage on British Basketball, more investment into the sport from current franchises, and an increase in funding to basketball at youth level, the interest levels is increasing.

Another big factor which could possibly peak the interest in the UK is the pleasure of being able to watch the sport in the warm indoors, no matter the weather. Let’s face it, the weather in the UK is rubbish. Why not get behind a sport which is always indoors?

Petheram investing his money into a club without a huge following or any current success shows the ambition of the basketball club. Like Bristol Flyers, Leicester Riders, and many other basketball teams up and down the country, funding into arenas, teams and training facilities are on the rise. There’s a real case of basketball being a top sport in the UK in the next decade or so.

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