Selina Conroy hopes the basketball community can embrace the ‘golden moment’ the coronavirus pandemic has presented them.
At the beginning of February 2020, Conroy started her role as head of communications at the British Basketball League, but just six weeks later the UK went into the first national lockdown.
Conroy’s plans to travel across the country to meet all the clubs and people involved in the sport were suddenly ripped up, but she utilised her time to optimise engagement across the board.
“Previously the league had been quite hands off in its approach whereas I take the view that without the fans you don’t have a league,” she said.
“It’s that simple! They’re really passionate and they care about the sport and they care about their team.
“Even if they don’t have a team affiliation, their love and passion for the sport and their desire to see it grow is incredible. I don’t think I’ve seen that kind of commitment in any other community I’ve been involved in.
“We’re at a real golden moment to change how basketball is seen in the UK and how it’s perceived. It’s not just for tall people, it’s not just an American sport. It’s more than the NBA, for example.
“While I was on furlough it gave me the chance to speak to so many people that I wouldn’t have had the chance to do normally. It really helped tap into that community.”
With a more open conversation flowing between the fans and the league, there was an opportunity to interact with supporters in the digital space.
The league created a new podcast called The BBL Show, which is hosted by Newcastle Eagles player Drew Lasker and former Plymouth Raiders coach and player Jay Marriott.
In January, the BBL and Basketball England announced that they had partnered with TikTok to launch the #BritishBasketball hashtag challenge.
All of these innovations are part of Conroy’s plans to help expand the audience and grow the sport in the UK by putting the players front and centre.
“The opportunities we have to aid our growth are huge,” Conroy explained. “We know where our audiences are, and we know who we want to reach.
“But it’s also about bringing in new audiences and new people into the fold because the British basketball community is passionate, but it’s small.
“And if we want to grow, we’ve got to reach outside it. It’s exploring all of the ways that we can do that.
“It’s allowing us to be a lot more flexible and a lot more innovative than we probably would have been.
“It’s allowing us to give more space to the players. Getting people to get to know the players as well because there are so many incredible players in the league and so many incredible stories that they have. For me they’re the ones that we want to be talking about.
“All of these things pile up together and yes, it’s a weird season in terms of nothing is quite on timelines or how we thought, but we’re able to lay really good foundations to really ramp it up next season.”
With the men’s and women’s British basketball leagues under her remit, Conroy wants to set a good example to her daughters and show them women’s sport belongs on the same level.
She added: “For me there’s so much that I want to do with the WBBL. It’s only been going since 2014 and again the skill and work involved is incredible.
“And also understanding that as women we do have to work that bit harder and we do have to put more effort in.
“Our women’s GB basketball team has been more successful in recent years than the men’s team. I think we are starting to see that shift.
“I want to do as much as I can for when my daughters are grown up. They both play sport, my eldest plays rugby and swims, my youngest plays football.
“I want them to see the change where it’s just normal. Of course, you’re going to have women’s sport on TV, of course you’re going to read about it online as you would with men’s sport and there’s no difference between them.
“That’s always the ultimate aim and whatever I can do to help move that conversation on, I will 100 per cent.”