The British Basketball League, often abbreviated to the BBL, is the premier men's professional basketball league in the United Kingdom. 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.
The BBL is not to be confused with the English Basketball League (EBL) or the Scottish Men's National League, which effectively form the second tier of British basketball. There is currently no 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 elected 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, and a chairman is elected by the teams to oversee league operations. The head offices are located in Leicester, 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. In partnership with England Basketball, the BBL launched a women's league in 2014, branded as the Women's British Basketball League (WBBL).
See: List of British Basketball League seasons
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
In 1988 Portsmouth emerged from the pack to clinch the inaugural BBL Championship title but the following year saw the famous Kingston side of the late 80s and early 90s win the first of three back-to-back league crowns.
The 1990s also saw a growth in popularity and commercialism of the league. Television crews and 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 – 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 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.
A single-league 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 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 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. The event saw a record breaking crowd of 14,700 in attendance.
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 the United Kingdom as a counterpart to the BBL.
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.
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. The deal also saw every BBL game broadcast live via LiveBasketball.TV.
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, thus is part of all decision-making regarding League policies, issues, and rules. Ed Percival is the current elected chairman. The following club representative's on the board of directors are:John Deacon, Chairman from 1987 to 1988
Kevin Routledge, Chairman from 1988 to 2002
Vince Macaulay, Chairman from 2002 to 2006
Paul Blake, Chairman from 2006 to 2013
Ed Percival, Chairman from 2013 to 2015
Sir Rodney Walker, Chairman from 2016
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. 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 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. 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.
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 and other North American sports.
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. 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.
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 National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, usually in early January.
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. 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. The Final is usually played in March at a neutral venue.
Guildford Heat were the BBL's most recent representatives in continental competition, featuring in the ULEB Cup during the 2007–08 season. No British teams currently compete in European competition. To be eligible for entry into the third tier EuroChallenge tournament, teams must play in arenas with a capacity of at least 2,000 people (3,000 if they reach the Final Four stage). Currently the only BBL member teams that meet the tournament's requirements are Glasgow Rocks, London Lions, Newcastle Eagles and Worcester Wolves.
As of the 2016/17 BBL season Italian sportswear manufacturer Kappa was the kit supplier for all the 12 teams. Notes
During his time as BBL Chairman, Paul Blake outlined a goal for the League to expand to 16 teams with an overall vision to have between 15 and 18 teams playing out of venues with 2,000-plus spectator capacity by 2019.Recent failed expansion teams
East London Royals (Were due to commence play in the 2013–14 season but withdrew due to financial constraints)
East Scotland Warriors (Originally scheduled for a 2014–15 season launch but postponed to the 2015–16 season before withdrawing)
Essex Leopards (Current members of the English Basketball League, were due to commence play in the 2013–14 season but withdrew due to financial constraints)
Rumoured expansion teams
City of Belfast
Reading Rockets (Applications for the 2012–13 and 2015–16 seasons rejected, but planning a renewed bid in future)
Primary venues used in the British Basketball League:
Bold indicates active BBL players.
Last Updated on 20 September 2012
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. 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.
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.
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. Coverage from the local newspapers in cities where BBL clubs are based is more extensive 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.
Starting with the 2013–14 season, British Basketball League match highlights are televised and featured on British Eurosport each week. One match per week is also broadcast live on the League's own subscription-based online TV station, BBL TV.
In 2010, the League agreed a broadcast rights deal with BSkyB network Sky Sports marking the return of BBL action on the Sky Sports after a 9-year gap. The history of television coverage of the BBL is extremely minimal and sporadic however. During the 2007–08 season international broadcaster Setanta Sports screened one live game a week on Setanta Sports 2. In 2006, League officials signed a £2.5 million broadcasting rights agreement with MKTV to provide coverage of 40 live games per season. However, only two matches were screened and the deal eventually collapsed when the channel closed. The 2008 BBL Cup final had been broadcast live on the internet two months previously by UKTV – this was the first time since the collapse of ITV Digital in 2002 that a BBL match was broadcast live. Previously 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 viewers.
In July 2016, the league signed a 32 game 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. Alongside the BBC deal, a six-year deal with Perform was signed which saw every BBL game broadcast via LiveBasketball.TV, beginning on 2 December 2016.Most Valuable Player award
Coach of the Year award
All-Star Team award