- National Teams
Essex Leopards will be back in Division 1 for the 2018-19 season after Basketball England have revealed they will be replacing Team Northumbria following the side’s recent withdrawal.
Leopards return to the NBL top flight after a season in Division 2, having been relegated in 2017; their first time in Division 2 in 13 years. The Leopards recently announced a partnership with the University of Essex for the coming season, to play out of their new arena.
“It’s a bit surreal, really,” admitted General Manager Dave Ryan on the club’s official website.
“…But it’s fantastic news for the club, and now we’re back where we believe we belong, we’re determined to make the most of the chance. There’s a lot of work to done over the next few weeks as we’ve got to work around Northumbria’s fixture list. But it’s a nice problem to have.
“With fantastic venues at the University of Essex and the Brentwood Centre, together with the support of both the university and BLT we think we’re in a great position to take advantage of the decision and move the club on to a new level.
“We’d like to thank Basketball England for giving us the chance to prove we belong in Division One.”
Leopards’ head coach Thomas Baker added his delight:
“It is a great feeling to be back in Division One, it was always the aim,” he said. “So to be back playing in such a competitive league with great coaches and teams it’s going to be an exciting season. I am confident we can be competitive and demonstrate why we deserve to be there.
“This is just the beginning for the club and it is great to be playing at this level again, looking forward to getting the floor with the guys and starting the season strong.”
In a statement released on Basketball England’s website, the federation said:
“We have spent the past 10 days speaking to a number of clubs and analysing the best course of action. This meant contacting the sides that finished near the top of NBL Division Two, with some teams from further down the standings also expressing an interest to join Division One as well.
“As you can imagine, there is a natural need for each side involved in a potential solution to consider if they could meet the standards required from a higher division and financially commit to competing at that level.
“After significant discussion, we are pleased to announce that Essex Leopards will be joining NBL Division One for the 2018/19 season.”
Basketball England added that Liverpool were initially approached about taking the vacant Division 1 spot after their 3rd place finish in 2017/18, but felt the opportunity wasn’t right for the club at this time.
Meanwhile, East London All Stars will make the jump back to Division 2 to take Leopards’ spot.