UPROOTING sporting organisations has rarely been something readily accepted in this country. Unlike in the United States where billionaire owners often change the team’s name and colours and transport them thousands of miles away, similar moves have rarely played well here among a fanbase facing the prospect of seeing their local club become someone else’s local club. The ongoing acrimony and ill-feeling surrounding the Wimbledon/MK Dons farrago is a perfectly good example of that.

New branding for Caledonia Gladiatorspromo

The franchise formerly known as the Glasgow Rocks – rebranded recently as the Caledonia Gladiators – at least have two years to finetune the message before they up sticks from Scotland’s biggest city to a new custom-built basketball facility in East Kilbride. Under new ownership in Steve and Alison Timoney, who made their millions through smart meters, news of the proposed flit and rebrand come ahead of the start of the new British Basketball League (BBL) season.

The Rocks have played out of Glasgow’s Emirates Arena for a decade now but there is growing frustration within the organisation about a venue that has to serve many masters. The team’s season home opener had to be postponed because of the Davis Cup tennis tournament and the feeling is it is time for the Gladiators to find their own arena, ideally in time for the start of the 2024/25 season.

“It’s a big step but it’s time to move out of mum and dad’s house and into our own place,” is the analogy used by Sean Skelly, the Gladiators general manager. “I can’t underline how much the new owners are annoyed that we’ve had to postpone our first home game that was meant to be in the main arena at the Emirates, even though it was scheduled for a week after the end of the Davis Cup. They told us that wasn’t long enough to make the switch.

“So this move is being done to put basketball first. No event will push our sport into second place. We’ve been doing pre-season training at three different venues and playing games at different places like Paisley.

“We were told we could play at Tollcross with a pop-up net – I’ve got a 6ft10 Ivory Coast international [Patrick Tape] and I shudder to think what would happen if he were to dunk on a pop-up net! That’s not a professional alternative for a professional franchise.

“I can understand why some fans might not like the idea of the team moving but the facility we’re looking to build will be one of the best in the UK, if not in Europe.

“It’s going to be revolutionary for the sport in this country as there’s been a lot of questions over training and match facilities, even at national team level. The new facility won’t be exclusively used for basketball but that will undoubtedly be the priority.

“It will have a four-court training facility that will also host our development and wheelchair teams. We want to create a basketball culture with everything in one place, not just wherever you can get a hall.”

Unlike the venue switch, the team and logo name change has come into immediate effect. Skelly has been through this process before, on the staff at Braehead Clan when the ice hockey franchise transitioned to become Glasgow Clan.

“The biggest difference at Clan was that we were working towards the rebrand for about a year whereas this change happened a lot quicker,” he added. “This was the vision of the new ownership and everyone at the club was able to pull it together in just a few days really.

“But of course it’s going to take everyone time to get their head around the new name. I can guarantee that in a year’s time I’ll still be saying Rocks from time to time which is to be expected as that name has been going for 25 years now, although it was Edinburgh Rocks and then Scottish Rocks for a while before the change to Glasgow.

“The name also used to change depending on the sponsor at the time which helped put a better team on the court but was confusing from a branding perspective. One thing the new ownership has been very clear on is that the name is absolutely untouchable.”

A key reason behind the change was to bring the men in line with the women’s team. Earlier this summer, the Lady Rocks bought out the Caledonia Pride professional team and changed their name to the Caledonia Gladiators. The hope now is that both genders will work closer together as part of a wholly integrated club.

“It’s the only pro women’s team and only pro men’s team in Scotland and the ownership want to make it an equality-focused franchise moving forward, working together and sharing resources,” confirmed Skelly.