Basketball Wiki
British Basketball League
British Basketball League
Country Great Britain
Founded 1987
Number of teams 12
Website [ Official website]

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 league championship; the BBL Cup and the BBL Trophy.

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 and Durham Wildcats amongst others have all been elected from the EBL in recent years.

The league currently consists of 12 teams with representation from both England and Scotland. The 2011 Champions were Mersey Tigers, 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 league 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.

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 - 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.

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[]

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 BBL Championship BBL Play-offs BBL Cup BBL Trophy BBL 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 Kingston Kings Sunderland Saints 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)
2009-2010 Newcastle Eagles Everton Tigers Sheffield Sharks Newcastle Eagles Mike Cook (Sheffield Sharks)
2010-2011 Mersey Tigers Mersey Tigers Sheffield Sharks Mersey Tigers Jeremy Bell (Cheshire Jets)

Corporate structure[]

Board members[]

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. Paul Blake, of Newcastle Eagles is the current elected Chairman. The following club representative's on the Board of Directors are:

  • Cheshire Jets - Peter Hawkins
  • Durham Wildcats - TBA
  • Essex Pirates - Tim Lewis
  • Glasgow Rocks - Ian Reid
  • Guildford Heat - Alan McClafferty
  • Leicester Riders - Kevin Routledge
  • Mersey Tigers - Gary Townsend
  • Milton Keynes Lions - Vince Macaulay
  • Newcastle Eagles - Paul Blake
  • Plymouth Raiders - Bob Widdecombe
  • Sheffield Sharks - Sarah Backovic
  • Worcester Wolves - Roger Clarke

Former Chairmen[]

  • 1987-1998: unknown
  • 1998-2002: Kevin Routledge (Leicester Riders)
  • 2002-2006: Vince Macaulay (Milton Keynes Lions)
  • 2006–present: Paul Blake (Newcastle Eagles)

Competition format[]

Regular season[]

The regular season of the Championship, which runs from October to April, operates as a league format. Teams play each other on three occasions throughout the season, resulting in a thirty-three 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.[3] Matches are played according to FIBA rules and games consist of four quarters of 10 minutes each. Two points are awarded for a win,[3] 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 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 American sports.

Following the completion of the Championship regular season, the top eight placed teams advance into the post-season Play-offs which usually take place during April.[4]


The post-season Play-offs sees the top eight teams from the Championship regular season advance into a knockout competition starting with the Quarter-finals. Teams are seeded dependent on their final positioning within the regular season league 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 - aggregate scores will determine the victors.[3][5]

The culmination of the post-season is the grand final, which sees the two Semi-final winners play a one-game event to determine the eventual victors of the Play-offs. Traditionally held during the final weekend of April, the showpiece event is held at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.[5]

Other competitions[]

BBL Cup[]

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The BBL Cup is one of two 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 Trophy[]

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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.

European Competition[]

There are three tiers of trans European competition, taking into account not only the performance of clubs within their national league, but also the arena sizes, attendance and television revenues.

Starting with the 2012-13 season, to compete in the first tier Euroleague competition, clubs must play in arenas with capacities of at least 10,000 people. To compete in the second tier Eurocup competition, clubs must play in arenas with capacities of at least 5,000 people. To compete in the third tier EuroChallenge competition, clubs must play in arenas with capacities of at least 3,500 people. Also, clubs must be in good standing with FIBA Europe's club rules and regulations. This means that clubs that have been punished in court for unpaid financial obligations to players and have refused to meet them cannot compete in any of the three continental competitions.

As none of the BBL's clubs are based in arenas of this size, and what few games that are televised are broadcast on Sky Sports 3 - a channel which less than 1% of the population have in their home - the BBL does not meet the requirements to play in European competition. The ratings are amended every 3 years based on the league's performance in the previous five years. Meaning the BBL would need to increase stadium capacity (and corresponding attendance figures) as well as find a less esoteric broadcaster by 2015 for its teams to qualify for even the lowest level of European competion.


Current teams[]

British Basketball League
Team Arena City/Area
Cheshire Jets Northgate Arena Chester, Cheshire
Durham Wildcats Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre Durham, County Durham
Essex Pirates Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre Southend-on-Sea, Essex
Glasgow Rocks Kelvin Hall Glasgow, Strathclyde
Guildford Heat Surrey Sports Park Guildford, Surrey
Leicester Riders John Sandford Centre Leicester, Leicestershire
Mersey Tigers Echo Arena Liverpool, Merseyside
Milton Keynes Lions MK Lions Arena Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Newcastle Eagles Northumbria Sport Central 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

Defunct teams[]

See: List of defunct British Basketball League teams

Future 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) - whilst the remaining players on the roster must have citizenship of an EU country, either by birth or by naturalisation.[6] 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[]

  • United Kingdom John Amaechi
  • United States of America Rod Brown
  • United Kingdom Steve Bucknall
  • New Zealand Pero Cameron
  • United States of America Kenny Gregory
  • United States of America Shawn Jamison
  • United States of America United Kingdom John McCord
  • United States of America Loren Meyer
  • United States of America United Kingdom Terrell Myers
  • United States of America Craig Robinson
  • United States of America Dennis Rodman
  • United States of America Template:Country data UKTemplate:Namespace detect showall Billy Singleton

Media coverage[]


Most British Basketball fans first port of call for the latest basketball information is the Internet with sites like the BBL's official website, plus MVP 24/7, Britball and Inside the Game who provide fans with latest news and results including live commentary from key games.


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.[7] 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, The Glaswegian, Glasgow Herald, Daily Record, Leicester Mercury, Newcastle Chronicle and the Worcester News have dedicated basketball reporters who cover the local team.


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.


The League is broadcasted on Sky Sports throughout the 2010-2011 season, after a deal was announced in October 2010. The contract sees the League televising one 'as live' game per week on Tuesday evenings throughout the course of the season and marks the return of BBL action on Sky Sports after a 9-year gap.[8]

The history of television coverage of the BBL is extremely minimal and sparodic. During the 2007-08 season international broadcaster Setanta Sports saw one game a week shown live on Setanta Sports 2.[9] 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.

In 2006, League officials signed a £2.5 million broadcasting rights agreement with MKTV to provide coverage of 40 live games per season.[10] 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.[11]


  • BBL Most Valuable Player Award
  • BBL Finals Most Valuable Player Award
  • BBL Coach of the Year Award
  • BBL All-Star Team

See also[]


  1. Rob Dugdale (2006-10-18). "NBA star Deng ready for GB debut". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  2. Ian Whittell (2005-11-13). "Deng jumps through hoops for Britain". London: Guardian Unlimited.,14213,1641612,00.html. Retrieved 2006-12-23. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2,888
  5. 5.0 5.1,43
  6. Richard Spiller (2008). "Heat off to winning start". Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  7. Ian Whittell (2006). "Rodman to return". The Sun.,,3-2006020238,,00.html. Retrieved 2006-01-14. 
  9. Mark Woods (2008). "Basketball back on the box". Sunday Mail. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  10. Rob Dugdale (2006-09-21). "BBL signs up with new broadcaster". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2006-09-21. 
  11. Richard Taylor (1998-09-08). "How Murdoch has changed the face of British sport". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 

External links[]

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