Stars' future unclear as club faces cash problem

SOLENT STARS are celebrating 25 years of top flight basketball; but this anniversary could be the last one as financial pressures put a huge question mark over their future.

Despite being one of the most popular and best supported sides in the area, the Fleming Park based team has struggled to attract any substantial sponsorship.

Most of the financial support they have received in recent seasons has come from owner/chairman Bob Paulley - and he's decided to cut his financial ties with the side when the season ends later this month.

Unless financial backing can be obtained elsewhere, the long term viability of a team who have become part of the sporting culture in this part of Hampshire will be in doubt.

Players and coaching staff were handed an open letter after the last home game spelling out the harsh financial realities that Solent have to address in the next few weeks.

A large financial loss is anticipated at the end of a season that has seen Solent expand to run two teams at both men's and women's senior levels.

Anticipated income streams that should have enabled these extra teams to break even haven't materialised while the relative lack of first team success has seen gates fall significantly from the 500-plus level when Solent were championship contenders only three seasons ago.

Meanwhile, the financial outlay involved in signing overseas players Marlin Capers and Larry Parker hasn't been recouped off court, where Solent have been unable to sell coaching time to local schools.

Even with an all-British first team - which would probably struggle to match even the modest level of success attained this season - the club project a loss of more than £3000 for next season that will have to be covered from somewhere.

Any doubt over the future commitment to run a national league first team will put Solent's involvement in the basketball academy with Southampton Instutute in doubt. But the involvement of the youth and ladies teams as part of the Bridgemary Centre plans in Gosport will definitely continue.

Club spokesman Jim Rumsey commented: "Bob Paulley intends to remain at the helm and will concentrate his efforts on raising sponsorship to keep the club at the forefront of local basketball and on the national scene.

"The club is very grateful to Bob for all his support over the past few years and he's committed to ensuring its future.

"Players, fans and interested parties are being invited to contribute to a debate on the financing of the first team - with the warning that apathy could spell the end for it.

"A decision on whether to continue in the National League must be made by the end of March," he added.

Anyone interested in helping the club financially should contact Mr Paulley on 02380 650165.

Paws London Capitals 95, Solent Stars 82

Stars look destined to miss out on the play-offs for a third successive season after Saturday's must-win match against one of their main play-off rivals ended in bitter defeat.

Needing to raise their game a level or two, Solent were unable to respond as London took a decisive advantage in the race for the final play off spot.

To make matters worse, top scorer Marlin Capers ended up in hospital with a big gash under his left eye following a heavy fall as he tried to convert a scoring chance under a crowded basket.

The American pair of Capers and Larry Parker again contributed the bulk of Solent's points (48), even though neither scored until the eighth minute. By then, Solent were 17-8 behind though Mark Jackson's late three pointer took them to within three (19-16) by the end of the quarter.

There was still only three points between the sides deep into the second quarter when careless play saw Solent concede eight points without taking a step out of their own half. A half-time deficit of 49-36 proved beyond Stars, who laboured to make any impact on the game.

Scorers: Parker 29, Capers 19, Jackson 13, Marsh 7, Hunter 5, Silcox 5, St Omer 2, Long 2.

Sunday's scheduled home match against Worthing has been postponed due to the latter's qualification for the National Trophy final. It'll now be played on Easter Sunday (March 27th, 2pm).

Tomorrow (5th) Solent visit high flying Manchester Magic.