After recently defeating the league leaders London Lions 101-95, fans of Surrey Scorchers Basketball side were understandably looking forward to the remaining weeks of the season, when the expected news from the governing body of British Basketball the BBL agreed to postpone the 2019/20 season until further notice due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation.
Scorchers Coach Creon Raftopoulos told me that in the current climate it is difficult times. “The situation that everyone is having to deal with has taken it’s toll on everything, sports become secondary, but it is a difficult situation for players, coaches and the fans, but the way I am feeling right now I am just hoping for the best.”
As regards trying to finish the rest of the season, Creon remained doubtful. “A lot will come down to the timing. Naturally a lot of the import players from each team have started to go home, which understandably they want to be with their loved ones in this time of uncertainty. Teams do have a core of British players that have remained behind, so if we are fortunate enough to get to a point when we can fit in games before the start of next season, then that is what the League would be looking to do. Right now, it is just a waiting game and we are praying for the best”.
Scorchers currently have three American players on their roster, Lovell Cook, James Hawthorne and Uno Payne. Creon explained to me why both Hawthorne and Payne have decided to go back home. “We wanted to keep everybody together. Of our imports James and Uno are the youngest of the three, so we had a chat, they spoke to their families who wanted them home, so we didn’t stand in their way. In the case of Lovell he was still waiting to see what would happen with the league and the time parameters before he makes his decision.”
I asked Creon if any of the team had been worried about the current situation. “We were actually playing in Glasgow when the first outbreak of coronavirus had taken place, at that point as a group we all had a basic discussion, but obviously none of us could envisage the scale that it would get to in a matter of weeks. The players at one time thought it wont happen to them, but I think it’s now hit home and now at practice we have done the proper things like making sure the guys are washing their hands and faces to just try and follow all precautions, but at no point did we expect it to get to this point.”
Raftopoulos, did end on a note of caution. “The fans are going to play a key part due to the financial implications for multiple businesses around the country and around the world. Once we get back to playing, it will be very difficult for sponsors because of that little bit of money they used to give, so the support of the fans is going to be key to us and any sporting organisation going forward, so hopefully the moment we can get back on to the court and dealing again with the community and hopefully we can return to normal.”