Cork basketball: Major overhaul needed to improve playing standards and fan experience at top level

Granted the season began with Covid restrictions but I have been covering basketball for over 20 years and the decline has become frightening explains John Coughlan 
Cork basketball: Major overhaul needed to improve playing standards and fan experience at top level

Cian Heaphy of C and S Neptune keeps the ball away from three Tradehouse Ballincollig players. Picture: Howard Crowdy

ALL the national basketball championships in the men’s and women’s Super Leagues are now completed.  

It was another good year for most Cork clubs on the court with UCC Glanmire winning the treble, Demons landing the double and Neptune and Brunell going close to trophies. 

Ballincollig also had a great campaign in what was their first season in the Super League, though both Fr Mathew's teams will want to forget the year quickly. Next season can't come quick enough for them.

While Cork success was great to see and report upon, all is not right in the sport in Cork and Ireland.  Basketball in this country is at a huge crossroads and something needs to be done, otherwise, the rot may become to big to stop.

The continued decline in attendances and the lack of playing time for Irish-born players has now become a serious worry.

First of all, how does the sport resurrect itself to attract people back to attending games? 

 Supporters for The Address UCC Glanmire watch the derby against Fr Mathew's at Mardyke Arena. Picture: Larry Cummins
Supporters for The Address UCC Glanmire watch the derby against Fr Mathew's at Mardyke Arena. Picture: Larry Cummins

It has become very evident a total revamp is needed, especially from clubs to encourage more supporters to attend.

Granted the season began with Covid restrictions but I have been covering basketball for over 20 years and the decline has become frightening.  

The clubs are not doing enough to promote their own games. They are not prepared to put on a show for the paying public. That is what fans want. They want to be entertained on and off the court.

Neptune, a club in their 75th year, haven't had a match programme for any of their games for years.

Imagine being a newcomer at Neptune Stadium and not knowing the names of players on court; not a good message to be sending out.

Likewise in the women’s Super League, Brunell are also failing in this department and crowds have plummeted despite their best squad in years.

All teams should be targeting local schools to attract children to games, with either free admission or at a reduced rate. If they like what they see then you have a situation their parents will end up bringing them regularly.

Clubs also need to get their own members to support games.  Surely, this is an easy fix. It baffles me there is a disconnect in many clubs between the underage and local-level adult teams and the national league sides.

We need better American players in the league too. The standard is poor and there are very few if any playing in the country that you would want to go see. For this to happen clubs need to dig deep and get good sponsorship that will allow higher quality professionals to be signed.

The integration of European players into the league hasn’t worked as was hoped.  It has hurt the Irish players because it has limited their playing time.  

 Tala Fam Thiam, UCC Demons, with possession against Fr Mathew's. Picture: Larry Cummins
Tala Fam Thiam, UCC Demons, with possession against Fr Mathew's. Picture: Larry Cummins

Some clubs have very few home-grown players on the court from week to week. Fans love to see their own youngsters involved. 

CONFINED

I believe squads for next season should be confined to three professionals with nine Irish players to go with them on the scoresheet but three Irish players on the court at all times.

Each team at Super League level should have an underage feeder section from U9 to U20 and have links to schools in their area as this will encourage these underage players to aspire to reach the elite level and also support the top teams.

Facilities at Super League level should have to be of a minimum standard. The court size should be an international-sized court, with at least a metre between the sideline and spectators and a two-metre run-off behind each basket. Spectator seating for a minimum of 300 people should be required.

 UCC Demons' young volunteer Ava O'Mahony drys a section of floor at the Parochial Hall. Picture: Larry Cummins
UCC Demons' young volunteer Ava O'Mahony drys a section of floor at the Parochial Hall. Picture: Larry Cummins

Cork is probably the best basketball county in this country for basketball stadia. Yet the clubs are not doing enough to fill them.

Next season Cork will have three clubs in both the men’s and women’s Super League and it’s time for them to talk and work with each other for the benefit of all.

Playing several games on the same day and at the same time is no good. You're splitting the fan base and denying basketball enthusiasts who have an interest in all clubs the opportunity to do so.

There is going to be a long summer and let’s hope common sense prevails. If the governing body of the sport doesn’t address these problems and clubs don’t get their fingers out then there is serious danger it may never recover.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo WISA

Read all about the monthly winner’s and more.
Click Here

EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more