Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

“The British Basketball League is very underrated”: London Lions owner and head coach Vince Macaulay on the state of British basketball and how the game can grow in the UK

Posted on 23 March 2018 by Louis Olvera

Vince Macaulay was introduced to basketball as a teenager in Liverpool. He never planned for the sport to impact his life; all he ever aspired to do was work with film. Instead, Macaulay is now once again coaching the team he owns, the London Lions.

Macaulay founded the Lions in 1997 in Milton Keynes before moving the club to London for the 2014-15 season and even coaching that year before taking a backseat.

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Becoming a focal point of the local community, and increasing the sport’s popularity nationwide are long term goals. But for now, Macauley has more pressing concerns… After a run a poor results late in 2017, Macaulay has reappointed himself back to the coaching hot-seat as Lions chase a slot in the BBL playoffs.

“Coaching wasn’t necessarily where I set out to be. I want to develop the whole club,” Macaulay says. “Coaching is a critical aspect (but so is) marketing, the players and the fans.”

In terms of being in a league worthy enough to attract fans to the sport, Macaulay doesn’t undervalue BBL.

“It’s a very tough league and underrated. It’s very athletic and very quick. It has a mixture of rookie Americans, Americans who have played in Europe, and of course some of the better British players.

“It’s a league that’s trying to develop its own style of basketball. It’s up-tempo. There are a lot of exciting players.”

According to Macaulay, basketball ranks as the number two played sport in the local community; the sport’s popularity here is evidenced by the NBA’s annual sell-out games at London’s O2 arena. But can that interest translate to bums on seats to watch Lions’ home games at the Copper Box in North London?

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“There’s always been a good community connection with the fans. The big thing is just growing that fan base so that it’s five or 10 times as big,” he adds.

“That’s an area we’re now getting into. Were looking at having 3,000 people at our games. When we do that, the connection we naturally have with our fans will really turn into something quite good.”

The Lions’ head coach knows that one way to increase the fan base is connecting online. The league has stepped up dramatically this year by televising some games via and on Facebook through UNILAD.

“The biggest thing is our use of social media, both as a club and as a league. That is an area all clubs have stepped up,” he adds.

“There’s social media engagement (where) every game you get clips of action just like you get with NBA highlights, but those are coming out while the game is still on so people get in touch and stay alive with it. People just need to know that their local basketball club is there.”

It is odd to have a city like London not embrace their local sports teams, the way they do with their football teams. Macaulay believes the distraction and fast paced life that the city provides is a reason why. The city can create benefits, he says, but it can also be a double edged sword.

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“Yes, the population is much larger, but also the noise is also much larger. Not only is there a lot, but there’s a lot of high quality activity. We’ve got the best theaters in the world, the best cinemas in the world, the best music in the world so we’re competing against very high calibre of products. Trying to cut through that noise is to get your product to who you think you’re target audience is, is a challenge.”

It is a challenge, Macaulay thinks, that they are beginning to conquer with the help of digital screens showcasing posters and ads of the team across London. That, with the help of social media and local talent, can really make British basketball become the talk of the town.

“The audience is already set”, he says.

“People know the stars of the NBA. What we’ve got to be showing is that the level of basketball we have here, we’ve got to turn our guys into our local stars. That starts, particularly, by bringing the best British players back.

“If we focus on the kind of guys that we have in the league right now like Justin Robinson and Paul Guede, those are the kind of guys that will turn on the British fans.”


Feature Image: London Lions Basketball