Basketball: London Lions look to build on early success

By Rob Virtue on July 12, 2014 2:04 PM |

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Vince Macaulay, owner of the London Lions basketball team, has big plans for next season.

Last year he signed a 10-year agreement for his side to play at the Copper Box - the 6,000 capacity former Olympic venue.

Now his focus is to get the team playing in European competitions within three years and he wants to bring in the GB captain, who is currently in talks with the club, to lead that challenge.

"Andrew Sullivan is a local lad and that shows you the calibre of player we're looking to bring here," said Macaulay, himself a former player at a host of London clubs.

"We've also brought in the league's most valuable player in Zaire Taylor. Our goal last year was to make the play-offs and we did that comfortably, despite struggling in the second half of the season after failing to gel following changes brought in.

"This season we're looking to progress on that and then in three years I want to see us competing in Europe."

There were also trials held in Las Vegas this week with a view to bringing over players from the States. And for Macaulay the key selling point is the Copper Box.

"The inspiration of being here, and recognising the achievements of the people participating in the Olympics, we feel that as soon as we walk in," said the 54-year-old, who was born in Liverpool.

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"We're getting crowds of 2,000, 50% of which are girls and we're getting people from all over London here. The biggest driver is the facilities and we've got the best in the country.

"We're part of the Olympic legacy. And we've also got so many different nationalities in this region - Lithuanians, Greeks, Spanish, Turks - all from big basketball playing nations. There's a great vibe here."

Coupled with 30,000 people moving into the area, the future is bright for the London side.

Macaulay bought the club back in 1998 when it was known as the Royals and based in Hemel Hempstead. He moved it to Milton Keynes and re-christened it the Lions before making the big move to the capital.

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But his passion is about raising the profile of the sport as well as the club.

He wants London's youngsters to have more access to basketball at grass roots level and has strengthened links with Greenwich Leisure Limited - operator of the Copper Box - to help the group put in facilities for playing the sport at all its venues. He is also working with the London School of Basketball.

Macaulay believes the sport is perfectly poised to be huge in this country, with the right support

"We've got more people playing than ever before but we just want the powers that be recognising that," he said.

"They haven't. Funding was withdrawn after the Olympics. They're still hung up on football and cricket and they are not aware of what's going on out there and what the kids are doing. Cricket's dying and as for football team, you just need to look at the World Cup to see how far behind we are. Basketball is the future."

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