This month, we asked London Lions guard Jack Isenbarger to compare basketball fans in England to the fan experience he's had in the States. As you can imagine, it's a little different across the pond.
The team I currently play with, the London Lions, get crowds of roughly 750-2,000 for home games. In the BBL, crowd attendance varies based on the location of the game, the current position of the team (win-loss record), and how well the game is marketed. The luxury of playing with the London Lions is that we have a great venue in the Copper Box, which was built for the 2012 Olympics. However, the arena often feels empty because the arena has a capacity of 7,000 people.
As the team experiences success, like anywhere, the fan base should grow. The British Basketball League is eager to have a team compete in the transnational FIBA EuroCup Challenge, which would bring much more exposure to the league and allow teams in the BBL to be rewarded for winning the League and gaining promotion into such a league. One qualifying factor for a team to compete in the EuroCup is to have an appropriate size arena. I’ve heard rumors that the three teams vying for what would be the inaugural EuroCup participant are the Newcastle Eagles, Leicester Riders, and the London Lions.
Basketball is much bigger in America than it is in England. Many Londoners don’t know that a professional basketball team exists and there are two primary barriers. First, soccer or ‘football’ dominates the realm of sport in the U.K. – basketball is viewed as a minor sport in England. Basketball is below soccer, rugby, cricket, and ice hockey. Secondly, the London Lions only moved to London in 2013. Before, the team was based in Milton Keynes. Awareness of the sport and the team ought to grow with winning, marketing, and the potential for a FIBA EuroCup entry.
November 29 - This past week I was able to have my mother join me in Germany for the week. I introduced her to all of the new foods that were traditional German foods. Some foods she liked and some...not so much. She met a lot of the fans and they welcomed her to the basketball family with open arms, which I really appreciated from the organization.
I was able to take her to grocery stores and malls and show off my German speech/vocabulary I had learned through my time spent I Germany. She was also able to catch two of games, in which one of the games I was able to win player of the week. It was a great feeling to get two wins and win player of the week with my Mom in attendance. Christmas break is around the corner and my team and I are hoping to go into the break with no losses.