British Basketball League: Wikis


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British Basketball League
Current season or competition:
British Basketball League 2009-10
BBL logo, featuring the Molten G7 matchball
Sport Basketball
Founded 1987
Commissioner Paul Blake
No. of teams 13
Country(ies) United Kingdom United Kingdom
Most recent champion(s) Newcastle Eagles
Official website

The British Basketball League, often abbreviated to the BBL, is the top-tier professional basketball league in the United Kingdom. The BBL runs two knockout competitions alongside the league championship; the BBL Cup and the BBL Trophy, as well as the pre-season face-off, the Cup Winners' Cup.

The BBL is not to be confused with the English Basketball League (EBL) or the Scottish Basketball League (SBL), which effectively form the second tier of British basketball. There is currently no promotion or relegation between the EBL, SBL and BBL because of the franchise system in use in the BBL, although Plymouth Raiders, Worcester Wolves, London Capital and Worthing Thunder have all been elected from the EBL in recent years.

The league currently consists of 13 teams with representation from both England and Scotland. In its two decade history the league has been won by 12 different franchises. The 2009 League Champions were Newcastle Eagles, while Guildford Heat were the league's most recent representatives in Europe, competing in the ULEB Cup during the 2007-08 season.

Member franchises of the BBL jointly own the league, and a chairman is elected by the teams to oversee BBL operations. The current Chairman is Paul Blake, the Managing Director of Newcastle Eagles. The head offices are located in Leicester, where the country's oldest team, the Leicester Riders is also based.




1980s: Elite establishment

The British Basketball League burst onto the British hoops scene in 1987 as the game's foremost clubs opted for a franchise-based competition without promotion or relegation. Seeking to improve the sport's image through greater professionalism, the BBL fast became the benchmark for quality competition in the UK. And with the development and evolution of the BBL Cup and BBL Trophy, there is now ample opportunity for Britain's 10 elite basketball clubs to match ambition with silverware.

In recent years, Newcastle Eagles have been the biggest winner of the game's major prizes after clinching six consecutive major trophies.

In 1988 Portsmouth emerged from the pack to clinch the inaugural BBL Championship title but the following year saw the famous Kingston Kings side of the late 80s and early 90s win the first of three back-to-back league crowns.

1990s: Television, sponsors and crowds flood in

The 1990s also saw an exciting growth in popularity and commercialism of the league. Television crews and exciting sponsors such as Peugeot, Lego, Playboy and Budweiser came flooding in, as did the crowds. The Manchester Giants opened the 1995-96 season in front of a record 14,251 fans at the NYNEX Arena against the London Leopards - still the largest crowd to ever watch a basketball match in Britain.

London Towers, Crystal Palace and the Greater London Leopards ushered in an era of capital success in the mid-1990s and in 1999 a Conference format was introduced, which was mirrored by the NBL the following season. For three seasons the cream of the north and the south followed an American-style system with London Towers invincible in the South.

2000s: The millennium slump

A single-league BBL returned in 2002 and five different franchises have won the Championship title in the five years since. However the new millennium also saw a series of downfalls for the BBL. The collapse of ITV Digital cost the league dear, 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 have all dropped out in the years since, never to be seen again.

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 post season playoffs in 2005-06, 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 2005-2006, 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 2006-2007, 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 Playoff title against rivals Scottish Rocks.

The future

With 13 elite clubs for the 2009-2010 season - including expansion franchise Essex Pirates - the BBL is deeper and more competitive than ever. 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.

There is a strong emphasis on recruiting and developing homegrown talent with a view to supporting Team GB's London 2012 medal bid. With British NBA star Luol Deng committing to the team [1] and various other stars eligible to also play for Britain, including Ben Gordon, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, and Joel Freeland.[2]


Season Championship Play-offs BBL Cup BBL Trophy League MVP
Carlsberg League Division One
1987-1988 Portsmouth Livingston Kingston Kings Livingston Darryl Thomas (Hemel Royals)
1988-1989 Glasgow Rangers Glasgow Rangers Bracknell Tigers Bracknell Tigers Alan Cunningham (Glasgow Rangers)
1989-1990 Kingston Kings Kingston Kings Kingston Kings Kingston Kings Clyde Vaughn (Sunderland Saints)
1990-1991 Kingston Kings Sunderland Saints Kingston Kings Kingston Kings Alton Byrd (Kingston Kings)
1991-1992 Kingston Kings Kingston Kings Kingston Kings Kingston Kings Alton Byrd (Kingston Kings)
1992-1993 Worthing Bears Worthing Bears Guildford Kings Thames Valley Tigers Colin Irish (Worthing Bears)
Budweiser Basketball League
1993-1994 Thames Valley Tigers Worthing Bears Worthing Bears Thames Valley Tigers Nigel Lloyd (Thames Valley Tigers)
1994-1995 Sheffield Sharks Worthing Bears Sheffield Sharks Thames Valley Tigers Roger Huggins (Sheffield Sharks)
1995-1996 London Towers Birmingham Bullets London Towers London Towers Tony Dorsey (Birmingham Bullets)
1996-1997 Leopards London Towers Leopards London Towers John White (Leopards)
1997-1998 Greater London Leopards Birmingham Bullets Thames Valley Tigers Sheffield Sharks Eric Burks (Greater London Leopards)
1998-1999 Sheffield Sharks London Towers Sheffield Sharks Manchester Giants Terrell Myers (Sheffield Sharks)
Dairylea Dunkers Championship
1999-2000 N: Manchester Giants
S: London Towers
Manchester Giants Sheffield Sharks London Towers Tony Dorsey (Manchester Giants)
British Basketball League
2000-2001 N: Sheffield Sharks
S: London Towers
Leicester Riders Leicester Riders Chester Jets Loren Meyer (Chester Jets)
2001-2002 N: Chester Jets
S: London Towers
Chester Jets Chester Jets Chester Jets John Thomas (Chester Jets)
2002-2003 Sheffield Sharks Scottish Rocks Brighton Bears Chester Jets Kenny Gregory (Chester Jets)
2003-2004 Brighton Bears Sheffield Sharks Sheffield Sharks Chester Jets Jerry Williams (Scottish Rocks)
2004-2005 Chester Jets Newcastle Eagles Brighton Bears Newcastle Eagles Trey Moore (Chester Jets)
2005-2006 Newcastle Eagles Newcastle Eagles Newcastle Eagles Newcastle Eagles Andrew Sullivan (Newcastle Eagles)
2006-2007 Guildford Heat Newcastle Eagles Guildford Heat Plymouth Raiders Jeff Bonds (Sheffield Sharks) and
Brian Dux (Guildford Heat)
2007-2008 Newcastle Eagles Guildford Heat Milton Keynes Lions Guildford Heat Lynard Stewart (Newcastle Eagles)
2008-2009 Newcastle Eagles Newcastle Eagles Everton Tigers Newcastle Eagles Trey Moore (Newcastle Eagles)

BBL Championship

Regular season

The regular season, which runs from September to April, operates as a league format. Clubs play each other on three occasions throughout the season, resulting in a thirty-six game campaign for each team, meeting each of their counterparts once at home, once away, and once home or away in the 12-team league structure. Matches are played according to FIBA rules and games consist of four quarters of 10 minutes each. Two points are awarded for a win, with the game going into overtime 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.

In the league season, team schedules are not identical and neither are matchdays, with games scheduled mainly around Arena 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 (possible a home and away game) on consecutive days, something that is not commonplace in British sports, although often seen in the National Basketball Association and other American sports.

Following the completion of the Championship regular season, the top eight placed teams will advance into the post-season Championship Playoffs, which take place during April, concluding with the Finals Weekend.


The post-season Play-offs sees the top eight teams from the regular season advance into a one-game knockout series. The team finishing in first place will play the lowest seeded eighth team (match 1), as will second place against seventh (match 2), third against sixth (match 3)and finally the fourth and fifth placed teams facing each other in match 4. The top seeded team in each game will have home court advantage, with the four winners then going onto to compete in the Semi-finals.

Both semi-finals matches are played on the Saturday of the Finals Weekend, held during the May bank holiday weekend at the National Indoor Arena, in Birmingham. The two winners of the semi-finals will then face each other in the Play-off final on the Sunday, with the winners being crowned Play-off champions.


The BBL Cup is one of three peripheral competitions operated by the BBL during the regular season. The tournament emerged from a breakaway of the National Cup and was contested for the first time in 2003-04, when Sheffield Sharks were the inaugural winners. It is a pure knockout competition comprising all 13 BBL clubs, with the final hosted at the prestigious National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, usually in early January.

The current holders are the Everton Tigers, after their 103-49 victory rout over the Plymouth Raiders on January 18, 2009. It was a historic event for both teams appearing in their first BBL Cup Final, notable for Raiders finishing with the lowest points total ever recorded in a BBL Cup Final and also for losing by the biggest margin in those finals, with a gap of 54.

BBL Cup Winners' Cup

The BBL Cup Winners' Cup is a pre-season tournament competed over two legs, one home and one away, between the winners of BBL Cup and BBL Trophy from the previous season. Each leg is staged prior to the beginning of the regular season and is considered the curtain-raiser for the new BBL campaign, the winner being the team with the better points total on the aggregate score.

Concepted in 2007, the competition was first fought for by Guildford Heat (BBL Cup winners 2006-07) and Plymouth Raiders (BBL Trophy winners 2006-07), and saw the Heat defeat the Raiders to claim the inaugural Cup 176-168 on aggregate. The second edition saw Trophy winners Heat competing to retain their crown against the 2008 BBL Cup winners Milton Keynes Lions. The first leg, played in Milton Keynes on September 14, saw the visitors claim a slender advantage to win 89-91. The second leg on September 19, was almost as close and finished 68-60 to the home-court Heat, resulting in a 10-point aggregate victory for the Guildford Heat, who retained the Cup. The Cup Winners' Cup wasn't competed for during the 2009-2010 season.

BBL Trophy

The BBL Trophy started out as the Anglo-Scottish Cup in 1985 was initially a competition between teams from both the English and Scottish leagues. It was rebranded as the League Trophy in 1987 following the reorganisation and amalgamation of the leagues. The tournament begins with a regional group format and comprises all 13 BBL clubs plus 3 teams from the EBL. The winners of each group go through to play each other in a two-legged Semi-final, with the two winners then going on to the Final, which is hosted by the winner of the previous years competition.


Locations of the BBL 2009–10 teams

Current teams

British Basketball League
Team Arena City/Area
Cheshire Jets Northgate Arena Chester, Cheshire
Essex Pirates Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre Southend-on-Sea, Essex
Everton Tigers Greenbank Sports Academy/Echo Arena Liverpool, Merseyside
Glasgow Rocks Kelvin Hall Glasgow, Strathclyde
Guildford Heat The Spectrum Guildford, Surrey
Leicester Riders De Montfort University Leicester, Leicestershire
London Capital Capital City Academy London, Greater London
Milton Keynes Lions Middleton Hall (thecentre:mk) Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Newcastle Eagles Metro Radio Arena Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear
Plymouth Raiders Pavilions Plymouth, Devon
Sheffield Sharks The EIS Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Worcester Wolves University of Worcester Worcester, Worcestershire
Worthing Thunder Worthing Leisure Centre Worthing, West Sussex

Defunct teams

See: List of defunct British Basketball League teams


Foreign imports

League rules currently allow for each team to have a maximum of three import players, from outside of the European Union (EU), while the rest of the roster must have British citizenship, either by birth or by naturalisation. The current ruling was integrated at the beginning of the 2006-07 season, reverting from the previous law which allowed four imports along with naturalised players. Because of this previous rule, it was possible for a team to field an entirely American starting five, which was often the case.

With the 2012 Olympics in mind, an attempt to develop home grown talent has taken incredible steps forward in British basketball in development of more British players. Contributing to this cause, the BBL has implemented a new ruling which would have been in effect from the start of the 2007-08 season, whereby only two imported (non-EU) players are permitted in each roster. However, with an expansion of three more franchises for the 2007-08 season, the decision to permit only two non-EU players was revoked because of the lack of available home-grown talent currently available.

Transfer regulations

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, which is on 28 February, or if during a leap year, the date is then 29 February.

Notable former players

Media coverage


The internet has, in recent years, been the only real source of news for British basketball, with Inside The Game being the first port of call for most diehard BBL fans. Other sites include 'What's Bev' online fanzine is the leading news, feature and opinion based site around, produced by the fans, for the fans, under the leadership of leading basketball journalist Paul Nilsen, reporter for the Newcastle Chronicle.

Many other flagship websites have come and gone over the years, most notably UKTVSlam!, operated by the UKTV group, whiched folded during the summer of 2007. The website provided the most detailed coverage of basketball available in Britain, and often featured live matches from the BBL and Euroleague available to watch online for a small subscription fee.

For information and results based data, PawPrint operated by EBL statician Pete Jacques, is a valued source particular for those interested in the lower leagues of the English Basketball League and the history of British basketball.


Basketball receives little national media coverage in the United Kingdom. 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.[3] The press attention quickly faded after 'Rodmania' had died down following his three game appearance for the Southcoast franchise.

Coverage in the towns and cities where BBL clubs are based is more extensive. Newspapers such as The Herald (Plymouth), Sheffield Star, Glasgow Herald, Daily Record, Leicester Mercury, Newcastle Chronicle and the Worcester News have dedicated basketball reporters who cover the local team.


Radio coverage of the league is a little more sparse but coverage is available via the successful Eagles Web Radio and Heat Web Radio which, run by fans of Newcastle Eagles and Guildford Heat respectively, broadcast live game commentary over the internet where the said teams are involved in.

BBC Radio Devon often provide live commentary of Plymouth Raiders games, both home and away, while various local radio stations around the country occasionally offer updates on their respective local teams.


A television deal was struck mid-way through the 2007-08 season with international broadcaster Setanta Sports which began with the 2008 Trophy Final, and saw one game a week shown live on Setanta Sports 2.[4] The coverage proved a ratings success and it was hoped that live televised games would continue during the 2008-09 season, however no deal was ever reached with Setanta Sports, or their rivals Sky Sports.

The history of television coverage of the BBL is extremely minimal. In 2006, league officials signed a £2.5 million broadcasting rights agreement with MKTV to provide coverage of 40 live games per season.[5] However only two matches were screened and the deal eventually collapsed when the channel closed. Though the BBL Cup final had been broadcast live over the internet two months previously, by UKTV, this was the first time in five years that the BBL was screened live on television, since the collapse of ITV Digital in 2002. Before then, the league also enjoyed coverage from Channel 4 in the 1980s and Sky Sports from 1995 to 2001, where audiences peaked at around 150,000.[6]


See also


External links


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