BBL on YouTube

For the 2019/20 season the British Basketball League (BBL) are broadcasting games live on YouTube. For the last few seasons they were using LiveBasketball so I was interested to see if the service improved with YouTube.

I decided that I would watch a London Lions game on YouTube as I am a Lions fan. Unfortunately my first attempt at this did not work as there were technical issues which prevented live streaming on the day I had planned to watch.

The first, and most obvious, difference is that the YouTube service is free whereas fans had to pay for the previous service. Now I happily pay for NBA League Pass every year so I am not against paying for a service to watch BBL games. However, the subscription BBL service never really felt worth it as you could only watch games live, there were frequent technical issues and often the commentators didn’t even know the players names.

With a free service I won’t find technical issues or low quality commentary as annoying.

Today was my first BBL YouTube game and I was pleasantly surprised. The stream was constant all game, the commentary was good and the on screen graphics were a big improvement on the previous service. Throughout the game I could see the score, after each basket they showed the name of the player who scored and their stats, I could monitor the foul count each quarter and at half time I was shown game stats.

I really appreciated that as it’s exactly the kind of data I expect to see in the venue and the fact that it was provided on a free stream of the game made it even better.

Overall I think the move to YouTube was a good idea and I hope the BBL can keep this up.

English Institute of Sport Sheffield

Sheffield Shark

Location – The Sheffield Sharks play in the English Institute of Sport Sheffield, next to iceSheffield. It’s about 10 minutes from Sheffield City Centre and less than 5 minutes from Centretainment. This means that there is a good range of places to get some food or drinks nearby and there are two hotels (Ibis and Premier Inn) a short walk away.

We drove up from London but the venue can also be accessed by public transport – buses and trams both stop near the venue. If you are travelling to an away game I advice checking train/bus times carefully to make sure you can get back after the game.

The Venue

The Venue is a good size. It’s a slightly interesting layout as you enter the seating area through a corridor where you collect your tickets and can purchase a programme or some snacks.

Concessions

The usual range of soft drinks, beer and snacks are available.

Seats

The seats are padded and comfortable. There is seating along both sides of court – away fans are seated behind the away team bench.

Atmosphere

On my recent visit to the Sharks the venue was not very busy but you could hear some of the home fans cheering.

Lions progress in the cup

Having won 3 out of 4 BBL championship games to start the season the Lions were in a good position heading into their cup game at home against Leeds Force.

The Force aren’t looking as strong as they would like this season and have already faced some tough losses.

The game started well for the Lions and honestly it never looked as though the Force had a chance. By the end of the first period the Lions were ahead 31-5. The Leeds team kept playing and managed to put some good runs in but for the most part they looked tired and frustrated.

The pace of the game occasionally seemed to cause problems for the Lions as well. Some fancy passing that didn’t reach the intended target suggested that trying to show off may be less useful that sticking to the basics and doing them well.

The Copper Box crowd was treated to a real show from the home team and we got to see minutes from Roberts and James.

In the end it was a convincing victory for the Lions (103-54) who will face Leicester in the next round.

Carnegie Sports Centre 

Team – Leeds Force 

Getting to Leeds 

We drove up to Leeds from London. It’s about a 4 hour drive not including stops or any delays on the motorway.

You can also travel by train and can easily return to London the same day. A quick look at National Rail suggests you could get back to most BBL destinations by train the same day though for a few teams you would need to factor in an overnight stay. 

Leeds – 

I haven’t spent much time in Leeds but there are a range of tourist attractions to keep you entertained if you want to make a weekend out of your trip. 

Highlights include an Abbey, a cathedral and a Minster as well as several museums. 

Getting to venue – 

As we drove we were able to go straight there and make use of the free parking. 

If you arrive by train it’s quite a walk so I would suggest a taxi (20 mins) or investigating the local buses. 

The venue is a University campus so is close to a lot of local bars and restaurants. 

The venue

This is a sports hall in a University, it’s definitely one of the smaller BBL venues. The seats have backs and are reasonably comfortable. 

They don’t have any entertainment on offer other than the music through the speakers that are oddly places at the bottom of the seating area. 

Food in venue 

Hot dogs, sweets and drinks – soft drinks and beer. 

Lions progress in the BBL Cup 

On Saturday 12 November the London Lions and a somewhat vocal group of fans travelled north to Leicester for the quarter final of the BBL cup, knowing that the winning team would go on to face Newcastle in the semi finals. 

The Lions looked the stronger team for most of the game, extending a 12 point lead at the end of q1 to a 16 point lead during a run early in q2 that prevented the Riders from scoring. 

The Lions fans were loud and proud and on many occasions seemed to be out chanting the home fans. The commentator was doing his best to encourage the home fans, clearly realising the value of the fan support. 

At the end of the half the Lions had a 13 point lead and both teams had a few too many fouls, including a Technical on the Riders coach. 

The third quarter was a strange affair. It took almost four minutes for the score to change. The pace picked up a little from there and ended Riders 46 – Lions 57. 

As the final quarter started the Riders were keen not to lose on their home court and were able to bring the score a bit closer. The Lions called a well timed time out and were able to stretch the lead a little again. 

This prompted a Riders timeout at a point when Sullivan had received a Technical and the Riders coach looked close to getting his second as a result of his protests. 

The Riders were then able to get the score within 7 but the Lions kept the pressure on and were able to win the game Riders 67 Lions 76. 

Both teams had reason to take issue with referee calls on the night but the refs decisions were not the reason for the result. 

Lions will next take on Newcastle Eagles in the league on Sunday 13 November and of course will face Newcastle in the Cup (date tbc). 

Plymouth Pavilions 

Plymouth Pavilions plays home to the Plymouth Raiders. Today was my second trip to this venue and it wasn’t a great experience (disappointing given that I enjoyed my first visit). 

It started badly, when the woman on reception gave us some attitude because they hadn’t received the guest list on time. 

A technical problem then meant that the game was delayed by 30 minutes and when it did start there was no game clock or score board and only one shot clock. The announcer was supposed to be keeping everyone up to date but as he doesn’t usually need to provide that level of detail he was out of his comfort zone. 

This caused problems for both teams, most noticeably the Lions at the end of the second quarter when they did not know how long they had left to put the shot up. It also caused confusion for fans. 

This was obviously an unfortunate and unforeseen technical issue but the lack of back up plan did make the whole situation feel quite amateur. 
Venue 

The venue is fairly big. The seats are padded and fairly comfortable for a basketball venue. It is also used as a theatre and music venue so the seating is only on two sides (both sidelines). 

One of those sides is known as the stage. At either end there is a group of three seats offset from the others in the row. I would not recommend these seats (and to be fair I don’t think they have them on sale) as you have a limited view (or no view) of one of the baskets. 
Accessibility 
The venue is fairly easy to get to by car and has plenty of parking, though be warned the car park charges and you will need to have pound coins on you as they don’t accept cards or notes. We were there early and paid £4 for six hours. 

There is apparently a local multi-storey car park that does accept cards etc but I can’t say I noticed this suggesting that it isn’t as convenient as the Pavilions’ car park. 

It’s close to the city centre so you could also use trains to get to Plymouth but you might struggle to get home again after a Sunday evening game. (Games tend to be on Sundays due to the venue being heavily used at other times.)

Merchandise 

I noticed a small stall selling Raiders merchandise but if you are an away fan this probably is not of much interest.

Concessions 

As this venue has other uses it does offer a good range. There is a coffee shop, a bar and the usual range of hotdogs etc on sale. 

I’m not sure how the prices compare to other venues but given the prices in Plymouth generally I would imagine they are good value. 

Copper Box Arena

The Copper Box is home to the London Lions and, recently, to team GB home qualifiers. This is my local basketball venue so it’s the one I know best.

Venue – the venue is quite big for a BBL venue with two tiers of seating, though usually only the lower tier is open. The seats are standard plastic seats, and there is no VIP section. Away fans wanting to sit behind the away bench should aim to book seats in section 103. Once you get through the bag search area you are on the main concourse and it is easy to see around the arena.

Accessibility – the venue is next to Westfield Stratford in the Olympic Park. It is accessible by bus, tube (Stratford) and overground (Hackney Wick). You can drive but the venue itself has no parking so you will need to park in the shopping centre car parks.

Merchandise – on Lions game days there is a small stall but it does have a limited range. On GB game days I havne’t noticed a merchandise stall.

Concessions – first thing to note is that they often can only take cash payments. There is no cash point on site so come prepared.  There are a couple of stands selling hotdogs, nachos and sweets. They sell soft drinks, wine and beer  – not the most expensive but not cheap it’s about £4 for a bottle of beer.

They occasionally have seperate stalls selling popcorn, candyfloss and beer on draft, again you will need cash. I would not suggest relying on these being open though.
Overall this venue could do with some work, including more reliability of the concession stands, staff that are friendly and able to assist and better connectivity as most weeks there is a problem with the mikes, scoreboards or shot clocks.

Leicester Community Sports Arena

The Leicester Riders have a new dedicated venue in Leicester. It’s pretty impressive.

The red and black seats are padded and more comfortable than most UK basketball venue seats. The venue is a good size, but perhaps could do with some work on the entrance/exit area as exiting the venue did take some time.

There is a bar in the venue selling beer, wine and soft drinks. There is also a stall selling hot dogs and burgers, and a stall selling popcorn, sweets, soft drinks and water. The prices are reasonable, I got two hot dogs and two cans of soft drink for £8.

The venue is close to the bus station making it relatively easy for away fans to attend. There does not appear to be a dedicated parking lot for the venue but they have free parking available in the industrial estate beside the venue.

Cheshire Phoenix v London Lions

Cheshire Phoenix v London Lions 31/01/2016

The Lions had a three week gap between games in January, so I was a little nervous before the away game in Cheshire.

I shouldn’t have been so worried. Both teams played with a lot of energy to start the game. The Lions were able to take the lead through some good shots and some great steals by Nick Lewis.

Though the score at the end of quarter 1 was fairly close (Cheshire Phoenix 20 London Lions 24), it didn’t really reflect the whole quarter as the Lions had managed to take a bigger lead at points.

The tempo of the second quarter was a bit slower. This benefitted Cheshire who were able to keep the score close; the teams scored the same number of points in this quarter (14). The Lions energy seemed to fade in the last few minutes of the half and turnovers were definitely a problem. A buzzer beater three by Owumi ended the half Cheshire Phoenix 35 London Lions 39.

Whatever the coaches said to the team during the break clearly worked as the Lions came out to a great start. 2 points followed by a rejection 3 times in a row. 3 missed 3 point attempts in a row from Cheshire helped the Lions take a 14 point lead. A sloppy turnover by the Lions followed by a foul helped give Cheshire some momentum and the quarter ended Cheshire Phoenix 56 London Lions 63.

Quarter 4 started energetically though it was mainly demonstrated by turnovers and missed shots. Cheshire managed to keep the final quarter pretty close, but the Lions managed to stay ahead. In the final minute of the game Cheshire decided to play for fouls. Unfortunately they were only on 2 fouls when they made this decision, leading to 3 fouls in quick succession. The game finished Cheshire Phoenix 70 London Lions 76.

This was a good game from the Lions, the team were playing well together and were demonstrating good hustle. The three week break was obviously good for them.

One downside of the trip to Cheshire was the vuvuzelas. I have no idea why they felt the need to sell them but the travelling Lions fans all left the game with sore heads.

Cheshire Oaks Arena

Cheshire have moved to a new venue this season. It’s a nice modern venue which is easily accessible by car. (I don’t think it’s quite as easy by public transport if you are travelling from outside the Cheshire area – at least not if you want to get home the same day.)

It’s right next to the designer outlet so you can always make a day out of your visit. There is a good range of restaurants at the outlet allowing for a meal before of after the game.

The arena has bleacher style seating – so not great if you have back problems.

The usual array of food/soft drinks seemed to be on sale at the venue, and the club has a merchandise table just inside the arena. Unfortunately last night they were selling vuvuzelas. The children at the venue were thrilled with this but the noise left all of the travelling fans with a sore head. Apparently an announcement was made to ask the children to stop the vuvuzelas after the third (I didn’t hear this and can’t say I noticed much of a difference). This led to some complaining that it affected the atmosphere. My opinion is that the vuvuzelas were not creating an atmosphere. I’ve been to a few games in Cheshire and the fans have always been loud and proud without having to sound like a swarm of bees.