Basketball: British league stands firm over imports

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The Independent Online
THE INTERNATIONAL Federation's decision to scrap all restrictions on the numbers of foreigners playing for clubs in European competitions, will not lead the Budweiser League to increase its own limit above five per team, according to its chief executive, Mike Smith.

The League, for so long languishing in the backwaters of international club basketball, has been cast in a revolutionary light by FIBA's move to allow total freedom of movement by players, including Americans, between its clubs.

The League has allowed five foreigners per team, almost exclusively Americans, against an allowance of two for the rest of the world. English clubs should now be more likely to compete in Europe, though they will still suffer from lack of finance and quality players.

FIBA's decision will, in theory, permit 10 Americans per team, although they will still allow national federations to set their own limits.

Smith said: "Back in 1996, after the Bosman ruling, we always believed it would prove legally unsustainable for FIBA to restrict the number of nationalities on a club but I would not expect our owners to be in favour of allowing up to 10 foreigners per team."

With some exceptions the overall standard of Americans has dropped, as the salary cap has restricted the clubs' ability to attract higher quality players and the best English talent plays on the Continent.

Smith insisted: "The cap is fundamental to the growth of the league," although critics feel the competition has only become more competitive by lowering playing standards.

FIBA will decide in May when the new regulations will come into force.