With the NBA finals drawing in an average viewership of over 20 million, it seems this may be the overarching goal which their counterparts in wheelchair basketball may be aiming to achieve. As such, 2017 seems to have been the year of publicity, with the sport perhaps aiming to utilise the success of the Rio Olympics to create a wider breadth of viewers, and in doing so may attain increased funding, and further opportunities for both its teams and players. With the European Championships, U23 Championships, and multiple regional tournaments occurring in the aftermath of Rio, the sport may be beginning to flourish and grow, and the productive consequences already commencing, and with opportunities to enter the sport widely available, increased exposure may be increasingly viable.
One of the most established tournaments in the sport seems to be the European Championships, as it seems to provide an opportunity for a multitude of teams, of varying abilities and geographical locations, to compete at the highest level, and gain recognition. This may be the most prominent reason as to why this competition may be held in high regard, with the innovation consistently showcased by tournament officials reiterating this suggestion; although the maiden tournament occurred in 1970, women’s teams debuted four years later, with the current format implemented at the turn of the century. In including an increased number of teams of differing ages and genders, the tournament may be taking further steps for increased equality and, with the sport ultimately part of the disability category, achieving this goal may enhance their quest to receive the same coverage as other major sporting events.
Whilst the Turkish team may gain the plaudits for their victory in Tenerife, it may be fair to suggest the British team may have also earned a high level of recognition, due to their consistent performances across a smorgasbord of tournaments, including the most recent European Championships. Although 11 different countries have medalled since the men’s tournament’s conception, Britain is amongst the 8 to have won the trophy, with their six victories solely superseded by France. Furthermore, with 15 medal finishes, they have become the most decorated side in the process, and with individual players enhancing their repertoires, and trophy cabinets, through their performances, such as Abdullahi Jama, Britain’s sole entrant into the All-Star team, they may be well equipped for future glory.
These achievements may have laid the foundations for success which the U23 side may replicate, and ultimately aim to surpass. In their recent championships, they recorded their maiden trophy with a 54-43 victory versus Turkey who, prior to this match, had emerged victorious in all of their fixtures, showcasing how Britain may have honed their capabilities to win versus any opponent. The women’s third place finish ensured all of Team GB attained a medal and, whilst the dominance of Germany and Netherlands, who have contested every final since 1989, may be clear, their ten third place finishes ensure they rank third. As such, the British Wheelchair Basketball Association may be prioritising sustaining their recent dominance with accomplishments across all categories, with opportunities via their website perhaps enhancing this quest.
With the next European Championships scheduled for 2019, there seems to be an ample time frame during which teams may prepare for this, and utilise their recent tournament experiences productively in order to hone their capabilities. For Britain, this may be a successful transitional phase as, whilst three consecutive tournament victories may prove the current team’s chemistry and ability to function at the pinnacle. Their recent second place may provide opportunities for members of the U23 team to enter the frame, which in turn may provide opportunities for an influx of fresh, young players to strive for a position in the youth setup. Whilst these major championships therefore may extend the tenure of the sport, as it may enhance its status, its overarching goal may be attaining a position at global tournaments; whilst included at the Paralympics, at the recent para-championships in London the event was absent, and thus it seems the sport has an area in which it may continue to flourish.
How may the sport generate the necessary credibility to be consistently included at major championships?