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.