Basketball: Facing the issues

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The Independent Online
THE redrawing of Europe's political map has forced the International Basketball Federation, Fiba, to consider including an extra qualification tournament for the current European Championships, which could provide a safety net for the England team in their bid to reach next year's finals.

When the draw for the championships was made at the beginning of 1991, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovenia and a number of other states emerging from the break-ups of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, did not exist. But recognition from the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee saw many of them take part in the Barcelona Olympic Games, where Lithuania and Croatia took the silver and bronze medals behind America's 'dream team'.

Fiba have recognised the injustice of two of the world's strongest teams being unable to compete in the European Championships and will consider the problem at a meeting in Munich on 29 November.

If there is another qualification tournament it will also include each of the third-placed teams from the current semi-final groups. England lead their group prior to the second phase of games next month against Russia, Denmark and Bulgaria. Only the top two from each group qualify automatically for the finals.

Florian Wanninger, Fiba's press secretary, said: 'It seems unfortunate that the second and third teams from the Olympics don't even have the chance of qualifying for the European finals, which also serve as a qualifier for the next World Championships.'