WBBL TO UPSCALE WOMEN’S TOP TIER

GB EB Julie Page 568The British Basketball League is to take over the running of the top tier of women’s basketball in the UK from next season with the launch of the new WBBL.

The initial line-up will include 12 sides – all awarded franchises from the outset – from England and Wales, although “other teams can apply to join” in 2015 with Glasgow Rocks thought to be interested.

The WBBL, according to a statement, will bring in “a more commercial and professional outlook to the elite level of women’s basketball and by championing improvement in playing and coaching standards, the WBBL aims to continue the upward performance curve that the women’s side of the sport has been enjoying over the past few years.”

It will also have no relegation with no automatic promotion from the lower tiers.

England Basketball will continue to provide administrative and regulatory support through officials appointments, league discipline and FIBA relations for player clearances.

While the BBL will provide scheduling and results, marketing, commercial development, rights exploitation and promotion for the WBBL.

Ed Percival, the BBL Chairman, said: “Everyone in the BBL is committed to making the WBBL a success. All our Clubs have very significant grassroots development programme, and basketball is a sport that is very attractive to boys and girls. Thus we owe it to our young fans to ensure there is opportunity for young women to follow their dream and become as good as they can.

“We have seen in countries around the world the improvements on and off the court in women’s basketball, and we felt the time was right to make this investment to grow the game further in the UK.

“Together with England Basketball we are committed to leveraging our various partnerships and resources to really make a difference to women’s club basketball.”

However the development stops short of creating the kind of semi-professional set-up envisaged following the Olympics when a working party was established by British Performance Basketball in 2011, with a brief to “establish a vision for a business case, a project brief and a project team to consider the key elements in establishing an elite women’s basketball league.”

Former cricket executive Sharon Bayton was appointed as project chair but the resulting plans hit a brick wall.

And although BBL clubs also considered an alternative option of starting up a new league from scratch, it was unwilling to financially underwrite the costs involved.

Now, at least, there is a Plan B, with the ten existing sides sharing the possible risks and rewards.

“It is a huge step in the right direction for helping to raise the standards of the women’s game on and off the court,” Sheffield Hatters supremo Betty Codona said.

“We have seen how the Great Britain women’s team has improved immeasurably over the last 6 years or so, and now we want to ensure that improvement continues to be seen at every level starting with the top flight clubs across the UK.”

WBBL Clubs

Barking Abbey

LSBU Brixton Topcats

Cardiff Met Archers

Leeds Carnegie

Loughborough Riders

Manchester Magic

Team Northumbria

Nottingham Wildcats

Sevenoaks Suns

City of Sheffield Hatters

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