The Worcester Wolves have pulled out of the British Basketball League.

The surprise decision, club chief Mick Donovan revealed, is down to the financial impact of Covid that means the University of Worcester – who operate the franchise – “simply cannot afford the costs of participation in the BBL next season.”

It is unclear whether an option remains for the Wolves to return in 12 months.

However a league statement confirmed their franchise is “withdrawn”, likely leaving them out of the loop in the potential investment which is believed to remain under discussion with 777 Partners.

In a statement, it said: “The Club will continue with our Worcester Wolves’ men’s team in the national basketball league, our Worcester Wolves women’s team in the women’s national basketball league and our exciting new Women’s Wheelchair Basketball League team in the new High Performance Pathway Premier League. We are committed to the development of all three teams and will do all that we can to support them going forward.”

It ends 15 years in the top flight for Worcester who won the BBL Cup in 2019 after previously lifting the Trophy and Playoffs in 2014.

A BBL spokesperson said: “We are sad that Worcester Wolves have withdrawn from the League. We thank them for their participation over the past 15 years. Our thoughts are with the players, staff and supporters at what is a particularly difficult time.”

The league is now down to just ten teams although interest in joining has been expressed from a group in Gloucester, one which sources told MVP has received only lukewarm interest from other teams.

Donovan added: “Covid-19 has hit the Club hard. It is now over 16 months since there was last a home basketball crowd at the University of Worcester Arena. Naturally this has had a negative impact upon income, together with the increase in expenditure across other additional requirements

“Several potential sponsors have also been badly affected by the pandemic and there is no realistic prospect of the essential income from sponsors meeting pre – pandemic levels.

“In addition, the recent rise in cases and the ongoing ‘amber list’ status of the USA and European countries has added considerable further uncertainty about the prospects for next season.

“Looking ahead, together with the development of our three Wolves senior teams, the Board is also determined to further renew our commitment to the development of grass roots basketball. Supporting the growth of community development and the existing Wolves Academy will be a key focus.”

British centre Michael Ochereobia has rejoined Cheshire Phoenix from Plymouth Raiders.

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