May 3, 2018

BFI plans a 3x3 Basketball India tour; bans 3x3 players of opposing league in 5x5 events and vice versa

It's 3x3 basketball season in India, and everyone is about to get the fever.

On April 25, YKBK Enterprise announced the launch of the first-ever 3x3 basketball league in India, the 3BL. Although this league was being organised by an independent company, they reached out to the international basketball federation - FIBA - to win 3x3 exclusive rights contract for South Asia. The opening ceremony featured many of India's top players like Amjyot Singh, Amritpal Singh, and Satnam Singh. Over the past few days, 3BL announced the names of 12 city teams to take part in the first season of the league, which is set to begin in Delhi from June 9.

But YKBK's effort and FIBA rights came at the expense of India's official governing body of basketball, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). On the same day as the 3BL announcement, April 25, the BFI sent out a memo to the secretaries of all of India's affiliated units giving an update of their own 3x3 event. The letter detailed that a BFI 3x3 India Tour will be launched "soon" (details to be shared later in May) with the aim of building teams for India's participation in international FIBA 3x3 competitions, including the Olympics, which will feature 3x3 Basketball for the first time in 2020.

So far, so good. But the BFI's memo, signed by General Secretary Chander Mukhi Sharma, went on to detail that, in their Annual General Meeting in Chennai on January 23rd, the federation had come to a decision that no 5x5 basketball player would be allowed to play 3x3 basketball, and no player that takes part in the 3x3 competitions (which means, the 3BL, and perhaps the BFI's own 3x3 tour) would be allowed to participate in any state, national, or international championship. The message was sent, presumably, so that the state/district secretaries can warn their players with 5x5 ambitions against taking part in the 3BL.

For those of us long familiar with the BFI's tactics to control/smother Indian basketball talent, this seems like another absurd decision, following other recent head-scratching moments like the ban on players taking part in the UBA League in 2016 and the ineligibility of stars Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh in February's FIBA World Cup Qualifiers. The BFI missed out on their chance to get FIBA's 3x3 rights to the 3BL and have reacted by making life difficult for any player that now opts for the exciting new league.

BFI's decision is directly against the FIBA guidelines. Both BFI and 3BL have FIBA affiliation, and it is unlikely that FIBA will allow the BFI to continue this "ban" on a league that it has affiliated with. But if the ruling stands, a number of players with ambitions to star in the 3BL as well as contend for a spot in the national team could be potentially affected.

The good news is that there will be competing 3x3 basketball leagues in India soon, and although 3x3 isn't a platform as prestigious as the full-form of the game, the opportunity it presents in India will help so many more players gain hoops experience, draw fans to the sport, and hopefully help India's overall performances overseas in both versions of the game. The bad news is that, instead of believing in growing together, the BFI is again trying to block basketball opportunities for Indian athletes. There will be a lot more to this story in the coming weeks - so stay tuned!

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