Surrey Scorchers boss claims basketball misses out on funding through ‘stereotyping’

Surrey Scorchers head coach Creon Raftopoulos is excited for the new season and the future of the British Basketball League.

But Raftopoulos, who has been with the Scorchers for nearly a decade, believes that the BBL – and basketball as a sport in the UK – needs the appropriate financial backing to fight with the best in Europe.

He said: “I think that basketball is stereotyped into being this black, urban sport so I don’t think it gets the support that it should be in terms of funding or even sponsorship.

“You see the NBA and how global it has become, and you look at the EuroLeague and it’s just something you hope will change in time – and sooner rather than later because it is a beautiful sport that everybody loves playing and watching.

“It all comes down to money, investment and people seeing what a good product that British basketball is on a whole, not just the BBL.”

Whilst it is a team game, basketball is a sport that relies on individual ingenuity – and Raftopoulos echoes that sentiment through his philosophy.

He added: “If I can make an individual a better basketball player, then the team will become better. It’s your IQ, your basketball fundamentals, your team chemistry and mechanisms.

“I’ve got a decent track record in having young players come in and improve. Unfortunately, we don’t retain them because they have to make more money so they move on!”

Players often move abroad to make more money than is available to the BBL and its clubs, with the EuroLeague being a popular destination.

The 46-year old believes the domestic game has the tools to make the appropriate next step.

He said: “I understand that the British players sometimes opt to play in lower divisions in Italy or Germany because it’s an opportunity for them to develop. I think the BBL is close to being on par with a lot of European leagues, it’s just as competitive.

“Why do other teams recruit from the BBL if the BBL isn’t great?

“I hope that the BBL becomes not just a pathway but the right place for a person to have a meaningful career.”

Despite his calls for investment, Raftopoulos hopes that the true reasons people play basketball are shared and maintained.

He added: “I hope that by generating interest and getting the money up, it will make people look at the sport a little differently but not lose the fact that people want to play the sport because they love the game.

“I think that should never be lost.”

Ahead of the BBL tip-off on November 13th, Raftopoulos believes the new campaign is set to be one of his most challenging yet as the Surrey Scorchers boss.

He said: “I think it is coming close to a year now since we last played a competitive game of basketball and such a long break has never happened before.”

“I’m really excited and keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly.”

The experienced coach is under no illusions about the difficulty of beginning, operating and completing this BBL season, especially given the nature of basketball.

However, the 2018 Basketball Journalist’s Association Coach of the Year is confident in the team that he has put together over the offseason.

“I think we’ve seen with other sports that if you have a big squad, you’re still able to put out a team on the field whereas in basketball I don’t think we have that,” said Raftopoulos.

He added: “This is a season of uncertainty, but I think this is one of the strongest teams that I’ve been lucky enough to put together. Rashard Hassan comes in who has been a top three scorer in the BBL.

“There are going to be challenges but it’s not like we are the only ones under that stress. It’s all new and we’re just trying to figure it out as we go along.”

You can check out the Surrey Scorchers here.

Featured image credit: Rob Sambles

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