September looking likely for BBL tip-off, believe Sheffield Sharks

Professional basketball in England should be written off for this season and only return in September – so says the general manager of long-standing BBL franchise the Sheffield Sharks.
Sheffield Sharks director Sarah Backovic (Picture: Chris Etchells)Sheffield Sharks director Sarah Backovic (Picture: Chris Etchells)
Sheffield Sharks director Sarah Backovic (Picture: Chris Etchells)

Sarah Backovic believes the 2019-20 season which was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, should come back as part of the package for the 
2020-21 campaign.

Her proposal is to complete the current season in September – Sharks have five regular season games left to play before the three-round play-offs – and then roll straight into the new season in October.

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It is one of the many possibilities up for discussion at league level as basketball, like all of sport, tries to plan a return strategy for when the coronavirus pandemic eases.

Sharks general manager Sarah Backovic and Coach Atiba Lyons. (Picture: Dean Atkins)Sheffield 
Sharks general manager Sarah Backovic and Coach Atiba Lyons. (Picture: Dean Atkins)
Sheffield Sharks general manager Sarah Backovic and Coach Atiba Lyons. (Picture: Dean Atkins)

Backovic, in her role as director and general manager of the club, is on weekly calls with her counterparts around the league, and believes shutting down the sport for a few months is the best way forward.

That way, teams can recruit again for the traditional contract period of autumn to late spring without compromising the integrity of this season’s competition.

“Originally when lockdown occurred there were discussions around completing the season in May, which obviously is not going to happen now,” said Backovic who has been general manager at the Sharks for 18 years.

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“The battle to get the Americans home when lockdown occurred was quite frantic because of the flight restrictions that President Trump announced.

“So it’s unlikely we’ll get them back. Does it make any sense to complete a season without the same players on teams? It just doesn’t seem viable.

“Realistically the plan now is to look at some form of conclusion, whether that be a tournament play-off, or a round-up of games at the beginning of next season.

“Nothing is concluded, there’s all sorts of contributions from around the league, but that is my personal view.

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“I just don’t see us being able to complete the season in the same way as it was finished, with the same teams.

“Whatever we do, finishing this current season will happen ahead of the start of next season. That’s the general consensus of opinion, and I think its shared by other clubs.”

Encouragingly for basketballl at elite level, there are no grave concerns over potenaitl financial ruin for clubs or the professional side of the sport as a whole.

Many clubs, Sheffield included, do not own their own venues, so there are no overheads. Plus players were coming to the ends of their contracts, hence why writing off the season now and starting again in September makes sense from a recruitment standpoint.

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“We probably have an advantage over a lot of other sports because we’re reliant on not just the sport side but also the community side,” added Backovic. “A lot of clubs deliver community programmes programmes which is an underlying role that supports the playing side.

“So we’re all reasonably comfortable with the financial position. That can’t go on infinitum, but for the foreseeable future everyone seems positive that we will be able to return.

“It is challenging for those clubs that do have their own venues, but by the same token when they come out the other side they’ll be all right.

“At the Sharks we’ve taken very sensible steps. Overheads are very low because there’s no games being played. Income has slowed, if not stopped, but we do have good sponsorship infrastructure, and owners and backers that are taking a very sensible view.”

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