When a teammate faces adversity and challenge it is felt by the whole squad, not just by their on-court counterparts but also by their wider support network. Over the last six months we have watched with heartbreak as our athletes have repeatedly endured delays and miscommunication regarding the IWBF’s eligibility review process.
Following the January announcement that an Eligibility Review was to take place British Wheelchair Basketball has been unwavering in our commitment and drive that wheelchair basketball must continue to be part of the Paralympic movement. We have publicly expressed our support to facilitate the eligibility review process due to our fundamental belief that wheelchair basketball is one of the most iconic Paralympic sports.
As ever, we remain totally dedicated to serving our athletes to the best of our team’s ability. Now more than ever the resilience and strength of our staff support team is relied upon to guide the GB athletes through what continues to be a tremendously complex and trying review process for all involved.
Each athletes’ situation is different, and as the National Governing Body of the sport, we have made a commitment not to discuss individual circumstances.
This silence, however, is not indifference and our position remains that:
- Athlete welfare is paramount – our dedicated specialist support teams are continuously available for our GB athletes as and when they need them.
- Lessons need to be learnt – athlete wellbeing must be first and foremost considered as this process reaches its conclusion. Good communication, timely processes and a focus on the athlete welfare must be embedded by all involved – there can be no excuses and no failures any longer in this respect from those responsible for the process.
- IPC Athlete Classification Code – The code is due for consultation next year and British Wheelchair Basketball will welcome this review. We commit to working with the international wheelchair basketball community, IWBF and the IPC when this consultation begins. For the time being, we remain respectful of the Code that was approved by the IPC’s 200+ member organisations in 2015.
- An International Community – As well as the global public unity of elite wheelchair basketball players in light of the eligibility review, the National Federations have joined together to provide a stronger voice to influence change and safeguard the Paralympic future of the sport.
- Inclusivity is at the heart of the UK sport – wheelchair basketball within the UK is fully inclusive and we have already taken action to ensure that this continues to be upheld. On Wednesday (29.07.20) we confirmed that we would be maintaining current eligibility and classification systems that are in operation in the UK (for domestic BWB competition).
We close this statement with an impassioned plea that the IPC revisit the opportunity to consider a transitional arrangement for those players who have been (and may be) negatively impacted by the eligibility review; many of whom will have supported their teams through Paralympic qualification and dedicated years of hard work to compete at Tokyo.
In light of the 2020 Paralympic postponement, BWB with support of other national federations is committed to working with IWBF to propose a comprehensive, considered and appropriate transitional arrangement for review by the IPC for athlete inclusion in the Tokyo games.