Basketball: Routledge counters Nemeth's criticisms

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The Independent Online
THE BASKETBALL League chairman, Kevin Routledge, yesterday presented a starkly contrasting view of the domestic game to the England coach, Laszlo Nemeth, who claimed at the weekend that the flood of American players into the country was destroying the national team.

"The domestic product is actually in a healthy state," said Routledge. "The Uni-ball Trophy final at the weekend is heading for a 7,000 sell- out, the second major event in three weeks to be a complete sell-out."

However, the previous occasion Routledge was referring to, the All Star game, supports Nemeth's argument in that it featured 24 Americans, with no domestic player earning selection.

"The ever increasing interest in the professional game has to be good news for everyone involved in it, including the England programme," Routledge insisted. But he also acknowledged there was little prospect of enticing home England's leading internationals. In fact from Nemeth's last England squad, nine of the players are playing for Continental clubs.

"The British game can't compete with the salaries of the top clubs from the Continent," said Routledge. "The leading European clubs have a turnover which is far in excess of any club in the top flight of rugby union in this country and comparable to some clubs in soccer's Premiership. We can't - and wouldn't want to - prevent homegrown players from earning the best money available.

"But the current England team has the best crop of players ever in the national programme. Those playing abroad are strengthened by the standard of European competition and those who remain here are strengthened by the increased standard of the Budweiser League.

"We suspend the Budweiser League programme to make players available for England and have met all requests for England training from the start of the season."

Saturday's League Trophy final is now looking even less competitive than previously feared with the Derby Storm losing their 6ft 11in star Nick Donovan with a knee injury for the game against the Budweiser League leaders, Manchester Giants. Derby are already without their suspended American Rico Alderson and the England international Yorick Williams.

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