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The British Basketball League, often abbreviated to the BBL, is a men's professional basketball league in Great Britain, the highest level of play in the country. The BBL runs two knockout competitions alongside the BBL Championship; the BBL Cup and the BBL Trophy, as well as the post-season Play-offs.

British Basketball League
British Basketball League logo.svg
Founded1987 (1987)
First season1987–88
Country Great Britain
Number of teams12
Level on pyramid1
Domestic cup(s)BBL Cup
BBL Trophy
International cup(s)FIBA Champions League
FIBA Europe Cup
Current championsLondon Lions (1st title)
(2018–19)
Most championshipsNewcastle Eagles (7 titles)
TV partnersBBC Sport
Websitebbl.org.uk
2019–20 British Basketball League season

The BBL is not to be confused with the English Basketball League or the Scottish Basketball Championship, which effectively form the second tier of British basketball. There is currently no automatic promotion or relegation between the English and Scottish leagues and the BBL because of the franchise system in use in the BBL, although several clubs have been successful in making the step up from the EBL in recent years.

Currently the League consists of 12 teams with representation from both England and Scotland. Member franchises of the BBL jointly own the league,[1] and a chairman is elected by the teams to oversee league operations. The head offices are located in Leicester,[2] where the country's oldest team, the Leicester Riders is also based.

In 2012 the BBL, along with several other basketball governing bodies including England Basketball and basketballscotland, united to form the British Basketball Union, an organisation created to promote the commercial development of basketball within Great Britain.[3] In partnership with England Basketball, the BBL launched a women's league in 2014, branded as the Women's British Basketball League (WBBL).[4]

HistoryEdit

See: List of British Basketball League seasons

The British Basketball League was formed in 1987 as clubs opted for a franchise-based competition without promotion or relegation. In 1988 Portsmouth won the inaugural BBL Championship title but the following year saw Kingston win the first of three back-to-back league crowns.

The 1990s also saw a growth in popularity and commercialism of the league. Games became televised and the league picked up sponsors such as Peugeot, Lego, Playboy and Budweiser, while attendance at games increased. The Manchester Giants opened the 1995–96 season in front of a record 14,251 fans at the Nynex Arena against the London Leopards – a record crowd that stood for a basketball game until 2006 when the NBA started staging pre-season games at the O2. London Towers, Crystal Palace and the Greater London Leopards had success in the mid-1990s and in 1999 a Conference format was introduced, which was mirrored by the lower-tier NBL the following season. The two conference champions met in a championship series at the end of the season for the next three years.

A single-conference format for the BBL returned in 2002 and five different franchises won the Championship title in the five years after that. However the new millennium also saw a series of drawbacks for the BBL. The collapse of ITV Digital cost the league financially, with many franchises struggling to recover from the lost revenue that the £21 million contract was providing. Long established franchises such as the Giants, the Leopards, Derby Storm, Thames Valley Tigers and Birmingham Bullets ceased to exist, though new teams have since been formed under the Giants and Leopards names.

The membership crisis brought about the addition of new franchises such as Guildford Heat (formed by fans of the defunct Thames Valley Tigers) and elected teams from the lower-tier English Basketball League, like the Plymouth Raiders, both making a refreshing impact on the old boys, with the Heat qualifying for the Play-offs in their rookie season.

During the same season Newcastle won 30 of their 40 regular season league fixtures to clinch the League Championship crown – the previous season saw the Eagles win 31 matches but lose out to Chester Jets in the final week, by just two points. That title was one of four pieces of silverware won during the dubbed "clean-sweep" season of 2005–06, the Eagles marching on to claim the BBL Cup, BBL Trophy and Playoff's – the complete set.

Guildford Heat, only in their second season in 2006–07, stole the headlines by storming to their first League title coupled with the BBL Cup, to mark a historic moment for the young club and its fans. Plymouth Raiders also put themselves on the map by overcoming their underdog tags to beat Newcastle on their own court in the BBL Trophy final, their first silverware as a BBL team. Newcastle managed to redeem themselves at the very end, after a poor season, by their standards, by claiming the Play-off title against rivals Scottish Rocks.

Former league chairman and Newcastle managing director Paul Blake is marketing the game at home and abroad, and after successfully gaining representation in the ULEB Cup with Guildford Heat's appearance in 2007–08 the league is slowly recovering from a low ebb.

In February 2014, the league announced the 2015 BBL Play-Off Final would take place at The O2 Arena, London, following a string of sell-out attendances at Wembley Arena in 2012 and 2013.[5] The event saw a record breaking crowd of 14,700 in attendance.[6]

The British Basketball League and Basketball England announced in June 2014 the launch of the Women's British Basketball League, the top-level women's basketball league in Great Britain as a counterpart to the BBL.[7]

The league signed a 32-game broadcast deal with BBC which saw both British Basketball League and Women's British Basketball League games broadcast via the BBC Sport website. The three main finals (Cup, Trophy, and Play-Off) would also be broadcast on the BBC Red Button.[8]

In September 2016, the league agreed a six-year deal with Perform, the leading digital sports content and media group, for the distribution and sale of all global media-related rights.[9] The deal also saw every BBL game broadcast live via LiveBasketball.TV.[10]

On January 22, 2018, FreeSports announced they would be broadcasting 15 of the remaining games for the 2018 season.[11]

Corporate structureEdit

Board membersEdit

The British Basketball League is an independent company owned by its member clubs. Each club – or franchise as it is known – has an equal shareholding in the BBL and a representative on the board of directors,[1] thus is part of all decision-making regarding League policies, issues, and rules. Sir Rodney Walker is the current elected chairperson.

ChairsEdit

CompetitionsEdit

BBL ChampionshipEdit

The BBL Championship is the flagship competition of the British Basketball League and features all member teams playing a 33-game regular season (in a round robin format), from September through to April.[12] Matches are played according to FIBA rules and games consist of four-quarters of 10 minutes each. Two points are awarded for a win,[12] with overtime used if the score is tied at the final buzzer – unlimited numbers of 5-minute overtime periods are played until one team is ahead when a period ends. At the end of the regular season, the team with the most points is crowned as winners of the BBL Championship, and thus British Champions. If points are equal between two or more teams then head-to-head results between said teams are used to determine the winners. In the case of a tie between multiple teams where this does not break the tie, the winners are then determined by the points difference in the games between said teams.[13] Following the completion of the Championship regular season, the top eight ranked teams advance into the post-season Play-offs which usually take place during April.[14]

In the regular season, team schedules are not identical and neither are matchdays, with games scheduled mainly around venue availability. Because of this teams may find themselves playing a series of four or five home games consecutively followed by a straight set of away games. As the regular season is also particularly short many games are played over weekends as 'doubleheaders', whereby a team will play games (possibly a home and away game) on consecutive days, something that is not commonplace in British sports, although often seen in the National Basketball Association[citation needed] and other North American sports.

Play-offsEdit

The post-season Play-offs usually takes place in April, featuring the top eight ranked teams from the Championship regular season compete in a knockout tournament. Teams are seeded depending on their final positioning in the Championship standings, so first-place faces eighth-place, second versus seventh-place, third against sixth-place and finally fourth plays the fifth-placed team. Both the Quarter-finals and the succeeding Semi-finals are played over a two-game series (home & away) with the higher seed having choice of home advantage in the either the 1st or 2nd leg – an aggregated score over the two games will determine which team will advance to the next stage.[12][13] As with the Quarter-finals, teams in the Semi-finals are also seeded, with the highest-ranking team drawn against the lowest-ranking team in one Semi-final and the two remaining teams drawn together in the other Semi-final. The culmination of the post-season is the grand Final, held at The O2 Arena in London, which sees the two Semi-final winners play a one-game event to determine the Play-off Champions.

BBL CupEdit

The BBL Cup emerged from a breakaway of the English Basketball Association-organised National Cup and was contested for the first time in the 2003–04 season, when Sheffield Sharks were the inaugural winners. The competition is a knockout tournament with pairings drawn completely at random – there are no seeds, and a draw takes place after the majority of fixtures have been played in each round. When there is an uneven number of member clubs in the British Basketball League, some pre-selected teams receive byes into the next round. The Cup final is played at the Arena Birmingham in Birmingham, usually in early January.[15]

BBL Trophy[16]Edit

The BBL Trophy traces its origins back to a previous competition known as the Anglo-Scottish Cup – and subsequently the British Master's Cup – which was founded in 1984 and was initially a competition between teams from both the English and Scottish leagues. Following the launch of the new British Basketball League administration in 1987 – who assumed control over the National Basketball League from the English Basketball Association – the British Master's Cup was scrapped and replaced with the newly formed League Trophy.[17] The Trophy competition has historically had a round-robin group stage format used for the first round, however the current competition is a knockout tournament with pairings drawn completely at random – there are no seeds, and a draw takes place after the majority of fixtures have been played in each round. As well as including all BBL member clubs, invited teams from the English Basketball League, and occasionally the Scottish Basketball League, often take part in the Trophy.[18] The Final is usually played in March at a neutral venue.[19]

European CompetitionEdit

In 2018, the Leicester Riders competed in Europe's third tier of continental basketball, the Basketball Champions League, losing in the first qualification round on aggregate to the Bakken Bears.[20] They became the first British team to compete in European competition since the Guildford Heat featured in the ULEB Cup during the 2007–08 season.

Following their elimination from the Basketball Champions League, the Leicester Riders played in the 2018–19 FIBA Europe Cup, Europe's fourth tier.[21][22]

To be eligible for entry into the Basketball Champions League or the FIBA Europe Cup, teams must play in arenas with a capacity of at least 2,000 people.[23] Currently the BBL member teams that meet the tournaments' requirements are Leicester, Glasgow, London, Newcastle and Worcester. Bristol[24] and Manchester[25] have both begun work on suitable arenas.

Worcester were awarded a B-Licence by the EuroLeague, the top tier of European competition, for the 2014–2015 season having won the 2014 BBL Playoffs.[16]

Newcastle,[26] London,[27] Glasgow[28], and Bristol [24] have all signalled their intentions of playing at a European level in the near future.

TeamsEdit

ApparelEdit

As of the 2016/17 BBL season Italian sportswear manufacturer Kappa was the kit supplier for all the 12 teams.[29]

Current teamsEdit

Team City Arena Capacity Founded Joined Head coach
British Basketball League
Bristol Flyers   Bristol SGS WISE Arena 750 2006 2014   Andreas Kapoulas
Cheshire Phoenix   Ellesmere Port Cheshire Oaks Arena 1,400 1984 1991   Ben Thomas
Glasgow Rocks   Glasgow Emirates Arena 6,500 1998*   Vincent Lavandier
Leicester Riders   Leicester Morningside Arena 2,400 1967 1987   Rob Paternostro
London City Royals   South London Crystal Palace NSC 1,500 2018   Lloyd Gardner
London Lions   East London Copper Box 7,000 1977* 1987   Vince Macaulay
Manchester Giants   Manchester George H. Carnall Centre 750 2012   Danny Byrne
Newcastle Eagles   Newcastle upon Tyne Eagles Community Arena 3,000 1976* 1987   Fabulous Flournoy
Plymouth Raiders   Plymouth Plymouth Pavilions 1,500 1983 2004   Paul James
Sheffield Sharks   Sheffield Ponds Forge International Sports Centre 1,600 1991 1994   Atiba Lyons
Surrey Scorchers   Guildford Surrey Sports Park 1,000 2005   Creon Raftopoulos
Worcester Wolves   Worcester University of Worcester Arena 2,000 2000 2006   Matthew Newby
Locations of the 2018–19 BBL teams
Notes
  1. An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise move. See the respective team articles for more information.
  2. The Hemel & Watford Royals, Leicester City Riders and Sunderland 76ers where all participants in the previous top-flight league, the NBL, when it changed administration to the BBL in 1987.
  3. The Cheshire Jets and Sheffield Sharks were both promoted from the NBL in 1991 and 1994 respectively.
  4. Bristol Flyers (2014), Plymouth Raiders (2004) and Worcester Wolves (2006) have all acquired a franchise licence to compete in the BBL, having all previously competed in the EBL.

Former teamsEdit

Potential future teamsEdit

During his time as BBL Chairman, Paul Blake outlined a goal for the League to expand to 16 teams[30] with an overall vision to have between 15 and 18 teams playing out of venues with 2,000-plus spectator capacity by 2019.[31]

Recent failed expansion teams
Rumoured expansion teams

Arenas and venuesEdit

Primary venues used in the British Basketball League:

Bristol Flyers Cheshire Phoenix Glasgow Rocks Leicester Riders London City Royals London Lions
WISE Arena Cheshire Oaks Arena Emirates Arena Morningside Arena Crystal Palace
National Sports Centre
Copper Box Arena
Capacity: 750 Capacity: 1,400 Capacity: 6,500 Capacity: 2,400 Capacity: 1,500 Capacity: 7,000
         
Manchester Giants Newcastle Eagles Plymouth Raiders Sheffield Sharks Surrey Scorchers Worcester Wolves
George H. Carnall
Centre
Eagles
Community Arena
Plymouth Pavilions English Institute
of Sport
Surrey Sports Park Worcester Arena
Capacity: 750 Capacity: 3,000 Capacity: 1,500 Capacity: 1,200 Capacity: 1,000 Capacity: 2,000
     

PlayersEdit

All-time statistics leadersEdit

Bold indicates active BBL players.

Last Updated on 20 September 2012

Foreign importsEdit

British Basketball League rules currently allow for each team to have a maximum of three "import" players – from outside of the European Union (EU) and require a work permit to play – whilst the remaining players on the roster must have citizenship of an EU country, either by birth or by naturalisation.[46] The current ruling was integrated at the beginning of the 2006–07 season, reverting from the previous law which allowed for up to four non-EU players on a roster, along with naturalised players.

New rules introduced for the 2012–13 season allow teams to field a maximum of five non-British players per game (including up to three work permitted players), further demonstrating the League's commitment towards developing British players.[47]

Transfer regulationsEdit

According to BBL rules, teams must field no more than six import (non-EU) players in any one season, though only three are allowed to be registered to a roster at any one time. Signings are allowed to be made throughout the pre-season and during the regular season until the league's transfer deadline on 28 February, or if during a leap year, the date is 29 February.

Notable former playersEdit

Playoff historyEdit

Season Champions Result Runners Up Venue
1987–88 Murray Livingston (1) 81–72 Portsmouth Wembley Arena, London
1988–89 Glasgow Rangers (1) 89–86 Murray Livingston NEC, Birmingham
1989–90 Kingston Kings (1) 87–82 Sunderland 76ers NEC, Birmingham
1990–91 Kingston Kings (2) 94–72 Sunderland Saints NEC, Birmingham
1991–92 Kingston Kings (3) 84–67 Thames Valley Tigers Wembley Arena, London
1992–93 Worthing Bears (1) 75 – 74 Thames Valley Tigers Wembley Arena, London
1993–94 Worthing Bears (2) 71–65 Guildford Kings Wembley Arena, London
1994–95 Worthing Bears (3) 77–73 Manchester Giants Wembley Arena, London
1995–96 Birmingham Bullets (1) 78–72 London Towers Wembley Arena, London
1996–97 London Towers (1) 89–88 London Leopards Wembley Arena, London
1997–98 Birmingham Bullets (2) 78–75 Thames Valley Tigers Wembley Arena, London
1998–99 London Towers (2) 82–71 Thames Valley Tigers Wembley Arena, London
1999–2000 Manchester Giants (1) 74–65 Birmingham Bullets Wembley Arena, London
2000–01 Leicester Riders (1) 84–75 Sheffield Sharks Wembley Arena, London
2001–02 Chester Jets (1) 93-82 Sheffield Sharks Wembley Arena, London
2002–03 Scottish Rocks (1) 83-76 Brighton Bears National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
2003–04 Sheffield Sharks (1) 86-74 Chester Jets National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
2004–05 Newcastle Eagles (1) 78-75 Chester Jets National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
2005–06 Newcastle Eagles (2) 83-68 Scottish Rocks National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
2006–07 Newcastle Eagles (3) 95-82 Scottish Rocks Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle upon Tyne
2007–08 Guildford Heat (1) 100–88 Milton Keynes Lions National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
2008–09 Newcastle Eagles (4) 87–84 Mersey Tigers National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
2009–10 Mersey Tigers (1) 80–72 Glasgow Rocks National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
2010–11 Mersey Tigers (2) 79–74 Sheffield Sharks National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
2011–12 Newcastle Eagles (5) 71–62 Leicester Riders National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
2012–13 Leicester Riders (2) 68–57 Newcastle Eagles Wembley Arena, London
2013–14 Worcester Wolves (1) 90–78 Newcastle Eagles Wembley Arena, London
2014–15 Newcastle Eagles (6) 96–84 London Lions The O2 Arena, London
2015–16 Sheffield Sharks (2) 85–78 Leicester Riders The O2 Arena, London
2016–17 Leicester Riders (3) 84–63 Newcastle Eagles The O2 Arena, London
2017–18 Leicester Riders (4) 81–66 London Lions The O2 Arena, London
2018–19 Leicester Riders (5) 93-61 London City Royals The O2 Arena, London

League historyEdit

Season Champions Runners Up Third Place
1987–88 Portsmouth (1) Kingston Kings Murray Livingston
1988–89 Glasgow Rangers (1) Murray Livingston Bracknell Tigers
1989–90 Kingston Kings (1) Manchester Giants Sunderland 76ers
1990–91 Kingston Kings (2) Sunderland Saints Thames Valley Tigers
1991–92 Kingston Kings (3) Thames Valley Tigers Worthing Bears
1992–93 Worthing Bears (1) Thames Valley Tigers London Towers
1993–94 Thames Valley Tigers (1) Worthing Bears Manchester Giants
1994–95 Sheffield Sharks (1) Thames Valley Tigers London Towers
1995–96 London Towers (1) Sheffield Sharks Birmingham Bullets
1996–97 London Leopards (1) London Towers Sheffield Sharks
1997–98 London Leopards (2) Birmingham Bullets Newcastle Eagles
1998–99 Sheffield Sharks (2) Manchester Giants London Towers
1999–00 North Manchester Giants
South London Towers
2000–01 North Sheffield Sharks
South London Towers
2001–02 North Chester Jets
South London Towers
2002–03 Sheffield Sharks (3) Brighton Bears Chester Jets
2003–04 Brighton Bears (1) Sheffield Sharks London Towers
2004–05 Chester Jets (1) Newcastle Eagles London Towers
2005–06 Newcastle Eagles (1) Scottish Rocks Sheffield Sharks
2006–07 Guildford Heat (1) Sheffield Sharks Newcastle Eagles
2007–08 Newcastle Eagles (2) Guildford Heat Plymouth Raiders
2008–09 Newcastle Eagles (3) Mersey Tigers Leicester Riders
2009–10 Newcastle Eagles (4) Sheffield Sharks Glasgow Rocks
2010–11 Mersey Tigers (1) Newcastle Eagles Sheffield Sharks
2011–12 Newcastle Eagles (5) Leicester Riders Worcester Wolves
2012–13 Leicester Riders (1) Newcastle Eagles Glasgow Rocks
2013–14 Newcastle Eagles (6) Sheffield Sharks Worcester Wolves
2014–15 Newcastle Eagles (7) Leicester Riders Worcester Wolves
2015–16 Leicester Riders (2) Newcastle Eagles Sheffield Sharks
2016–17 Leicester Riders (3) Newcastle Eagles Glasgow Rocks
2017-18 Leicester Riders (4) London Lions Newcastle Eagles
2018-19 London Lions (1) Leicester Riders Newcastle Eagles

Media coverageEdit

Basketball receives little national press coverage in the United Kingdom, although coverage is more extensive from the local newspapers in cities where BBL clubs are based, with publications such as The Plymouth Herald, Manchester Evening News, Leicester Mercury, and the Newcastle Chronicle all having dedicated basketball reporters who cover the respective local team. Some national newspapers list results and occasionally provide short summaries of the League's news, but more extensive coverage remains minimal. There was a small surge in interest during the 2005–06 season when many national newspapers such as The Sun reported that former NBA player Dennis Rodman had signed for Brighton Bears only weeks after being evicted from Celebrity Big Brother.[48]

The history of television coverage of the BBL has been sporadic. Previously the League enjoyed coverage from Channel 4 in the 1980s and Sky Sports from 1995 to 2001, where audiences peaked at around 150,000 viewers.[49] The League signed a three-year broadcast deal with the ill-fated digital TV company ITV Digital in 2001, and coverage suffered a sharp decline as the broadcaster struggled and eventually went out of business, resulting in a significant loss of income to member clubs.[50] Television coverage was then infrequent until the 2007–08 season, when international broadcaster Setanta Sports signed a deal to screen one live game a week.[51] In 2010, the League agreed a broadcast rights deal with BSkyB network Sky Sports marking the return of BBL action on Sky Sports after a 9-year gap.[52] The League's own subscription-based online TV station, BBL TV, took over the broadcast of live games from 2013 to 2015, and during the 2013–14 season match highlights were also televised and featured on British Eurosport each week.[53]

In July 2016, the league signed a two-year broadcast deal with the BBC, featuring both British Basketball League and Women's British Basketball League games. The games would be broadcast on the BBC Sport website with the showpiece finals also being broadcast on the BBC Red Button.[8] Alongside the BBC deal, a six-year deal with Perform was signed[9] which saw every BBL game broadcast via LiveBasketball.TV,[10] and a deal followed a year later with UNILAD to broadcast one game a week live via Facebook.[54] FreeSports signed a deal with the league in January 2018 to broadcast games for the remainder of the season, starting with the BBL Cup Final between Worcester Wolves and Cheshire Phoenix.

AwardsEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit