It’s a commonly known fact that people in the U.K. have a love for sports. With some of the world’s most popular sports originating in Britain, including football, rugby, and golf, it’s not surprising so many people feel that way.
Although basketball is popular in most countries around the globe, the sport has struggled to grow in popularity in the UK. In other European countries, basketball is played and watched by millions. Those who follow the NBA and college basketball closely can’t understand why sports-loving Brits fail to get involved, so let’s take a closer look at why the majority of the UK don’t bother with one of the world’s most played and watched sports.
In Britain, Football is King
The Brits are football (or soccer!) mad. Don’t be surprised if you come across a tiny village in England with a full-size soccer pitch. It is the most played sport in England, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. People of all ages play the game, and many tune in regularly to watch the world’s most exciting domestic league, the Premier League.
Following the sport can prove time-consuming. Avid fanatics often travel around the UK and Europe to watch their favorite team in action. Unlike the NBA or college basketball, the Premier League is shown live on many television channels regularly. Keeping up with all the latest action is easy. There are several television channels dedicated to the Premier League.
Unfortunately for basketball fans in the UK, watching English basketball teams play on television can prove challenging. Unlike football, there isn’t a demand for live basketball games, so it’s not surprising most television broadcasters refuse to show live matches. If you’re lucky, you might be able to watch the games live on a streaming service, but don’t expect quality commentary or professional camera angles.
Although lots of folks in Britain gamble regularly, and you can easily find an online casino in England that provides punters with odds for upcoming basketball games, gambling on football is far more popular. Unlike a lot of states in America, gambling in the UK is legal.
The Time Difference
Although basketball isn’t popular in the UK, some people in Britain like to watch the sport, especially the NBA. However, only avid basketball fans tend to stay up until the early hours of the morning to watch America’s top league fixtures live.
With most of the games starting at 3 AM, those who work regular hours or study often struggle to find the motivation needed to watch the games. Although fans can opt to watch replays on streaming platforms like YouTube, many feel that watching reruns takes the excitement out of the game.
Not a lot of Funding for Basketball in the UK
Sponsors in the NBA are not afraid to spend big bucks on promoting their business and products. With millions of folks watching the games, the league attracts big-name sponsors from every corner of the globe.
Unfortunately, British basketball doesn’t receive the same advertising money, which leads to a lack of resources. Although the sport has been improving over the past decade in the UK, it’s currently a million miles away from the NBA. In 2022, it is believed that almost 250,000 people will play basketball regularly in Britain.
Because very few people play basketball in the UK, most teams look to buy players abroad. Many believe that these professional foreign athletes entering the game in Britain have damaged the domestic league, and the national team. In 2016, Team GB was unable to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Brazil. This was extremely disappointing for the small number of basketball fans in the UK. Many felt that a good run in the Olympics would help the sport to grow in England.
Basketball isn’t even in the top ten most played sports in the UK
Of course, Britain is known for lots of sports, such as cricket, football, swimming, athletics, rugby, and golf, but not for basketball. Racket games like tennis and badminton are far more popular than basketball.
On the other hand, sports that are popular in America seem to fail to gain any sort of foothold in the U.K. Although there has been a lot of promotion in recent years to encourage Brits to get involved with American Football, very few have joined the bandwagon. Well-known stadiums, like England’s national football stadium, Wembley, held NFL games for the first time in recent years.
Basketball courts are hard to come by
In every town in China, you will find a basketball court. Unlike the UK, a lot of Chinese people are obsessed with basketball. To help it grow, the government built basketball courts throughout the country.
Although there are lots of netball courts, a sport similar to basketball which is extremely popular in England, especially amongst young female players, finding a full-sized basketball court isn’t easy. A netball court is similar, but the basket is different, so those looking to play basketball will find it difficult to play on a proper court.
Street football is also a favorite amongst Brits, so instead of outdoor basketball courts, you’ll find lots of street pitches instead.
In 1987, the BBL (British Basketball League) was set up. Although the league isn’t as popular as other domestic leagues in Europe, plenty of fans follow the matches closely, and many chose to travel for miles to attend away fixtures.
If British basketball was to go to the next level, more media attention is needed. In recent years, well-known British broadcaster, BT Sport, signed an agreement that allows them to show less than ten NBA games per week. The BBL hopes that other major broadcasters will eventually show live games too. Many hope that Sky, the biggest sports broadcasting company in Britain will look to get on board too. Getting the youth involved in the sport is key to its future. If more people start watching live games on television, more people will want to attend games in person.