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Bury St Edmunds Basketball Club's Arron MacDonald feels current rule of six enforcement is a 'death rattle' to their sport and putting clubs' futures at risk




Restrictions placed on indoor sports to halt the transmission of Covid-19 have hit Bury St Edmunds Basketball Club particularly hard.

The 2020/21 season had been all set to be a big one for west Suffolk’s longest-running basketball club, with the Bulldogs’ roots going back to 1983.

Off the back of launching a National Basketball League (NBL) men’s side in 2019/20 the club were all set to expand into under-18s for the upcoming campaign.

Bury Bulldogs’ National League side pictured with head coach Arron MacDonald (back left) during last season, do not have the opportunity to play or all train together this seasonPicture: Richard Marsham
Bury Bulldogs’ National League side pictured with head coach Arron MacDonald (back left) during last season, do not have the opportunity to play or all train together this seasonPicture: Richard Marsham

But as Suffolk News reported last week , the rule of six will be applicable to any player turning 18 during the season in any non-elite competition.

As well as ruling their senior players – totalling 80 members and 20-30 casual players – out of playing, head coach Arron MacDonald has revealed they have had to put the new side on hold.

“We had just got that team ready and got the coaches in but if someone turns 18 they have to be removed from that team and it made it less viable,” he said.

Bury Bulldogs v County Upper Wolves - The Bury Bulldog coach, Arron MacDonald..Pic - Richard Marsham. (24923757)
Bury Bulldogs v County Upper Wolves - The Bury Bulldog coach, Arron MacDonald..Pic - Richard Marsham. (24923757)

“The coaches were concerned about how they would be able to facilitate that.”

Not being connected to a college or university, they are also not able to have more than six on a half-court (with a curtain) in training.

And unlike other sides they play against, having to pay to hire their venue for training, currently using Skyliner Sports Centre on Moreton Hall, has also impacted what they can do to keep people training.

“We don’t have our own venue so the cost of putting on training for less people becomes even more prohibitive,” said MacDonald.

The Bulldogs have pulled their Juniors who play in the National League out and will instead play in a Norfolk-based league this season
The Bulldogs have pulled their Juniors who play in the National League out and will instead play in a Norfolk-based league this season

“In our local league men’s team there are 48 players and we are only able to put on one session (a week) as it is not financially viable for us to rent the floor more, so most of them can barely train now.”

Of the rule of six applying to those over 17 but not under, in relation to indoor sport, he believes it could leave the future of the sport and clubs in big trouble.

“I’ve repeatedly held this inconsistency up to Basketball England - who are only following (government) guidelines - but it’s clear to everyone that it’s just wrong,” he said.

“Aside from me and one other, all our other coaches are players (over-17).

“The government is saying it is not safe for those individuals to be on the floor as players but it is perfectly safe for them to be with other children. It is crazy.”

He added: “This decision is a death rattle to our sport, and is putting clubs at risk.”

Meanwhile, he also revealed the club’s committee have decided to pull their junior sides out of their National League divisions while the pandemic is ongoing. But they will still play competitively this season, in a Norfolk-based multi-court league.

MacDonald explained: “The first four games we had were in Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire.

“Parents have to be there from a safeguarding point of view (first-aid) but are not allowed to watch.

“They told us they were happy to travel around our area but not the likes of Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire.”