British Basketball League (BBL) -

British Basketball League (BBL)

British Basketball League (BBL)The British Basketball League, often abbreviated to the BBL, is the highest level professional basketball league in Great Britain, made up of franchises in both England and Scotland.

The league currently features 11 teams, and was established in 1987 when teams from the National Basketball League (NBL), wanted to professionalise and move toward a franchise-based system without promotion or relegation.

There are four titles on offer; the BBL Championship, the BBL Cup, the BBL Trophy and the BBL Play-Offs.

Below the BBL sits the England National Basketball League (NBL), with Divisions 1 through 4, and the Scottish Basketball Championship (SBC).

The BBL is an independent company where each franchise is a joint owner with an equal shareholding in the league and a part of all decision-marking. There is a central BBL office, with separate staff based in Leicester, where the league administration, marketing and media takes place.

The female equivalent of the BBL is the Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL), launched in 2014.

BBL History

The British Basketball League was formed in 1987, with leading clubs from the National Basketball League of England and Scottish National Basketball League opting for a franchise-based competition without promotion or relegation.

In 1988, Portsmouth F.C. won the inaugural BBL Championship title; the following year saw Kingston win the first of three back-to-back league crowns.

BBL Franchises

The 2019-20 season started with 12 BBL franchises but is currently at 11 after one of them, London City Royals, went bankrupt mid-season.

The 11 teams currently in the BBL can be seen in the table below.

BBL FranchiseHome VenueFoundedJoined BBLNo. of titles
Bristol FlyersSGS Wise Arena200620140
Caledonia GladiatorsEmirates Arena199819981
Cheshire PhoenixCheshire Oaks Arena198419919
Leicester RidersMorningside Arena1967198715
London LionsCopper Box Arena197719873
Manchester GiantsGeorge H. Carnall Centre 201220120
Newcastle EaglesVertu Motors Arena1976198726
Plymouth City PatriotsPlymouth Pavilions198320041
Sheffield SharksPonds Forge1991199414
Surrey ScorchersSurrey Sports Park200520054


There are over 27 teams in the past that have been in the BBL but are no longer operating. You can see all of these franchises here:

BBL FranchiseEntered BBLExited BBLNo. of Titles
Birmingham Bulets198720062
Birmingham Knights201320149
Birmingham Panthers200720080
Brighton Bears198720068
Calderdale Explorers198719880
Crystal Palace198719880
Derby Storm198720020
Doncaster Panthers199319960
Durham Wildcats201120150
Essex (London) Leopards199420033
Essex Pirates200920113
Guildford (Kingston) Kings1984199413
Leeds Force201420180
London Capitals200720100
London City Royals201820201
London Towers1989200610
London United200620070
Manchester Giants198720013
Mersey Tigers200720135
Oldham Celtics198719940
Olympic City Giants198719890
Solent Stars198719900
Thames Valley Tigers198720057
Worthing Thunder200820110

BBL Competitions

There are four titles on offer in the British Basketball League; the BBL Championship, the BBL Cup, the BBL Trophy and the BBL Play-Offs, meaning ‘a clean sweep’ would be a quadruple-winning season, achieved

– BBL Championship

The BBL Championship is the BBL’s flagship competition and determines the top team in British basketball over a 36-game regular season campaign. Unlike other European leagues and the NBA, the BBL Championship is considered the primary competition and its winner the number one team that season. This is because of the length of the regular season and the number of games played during it, compared with the restricted number of play-off games in BBL.

– BBL Cup

The BBL Cup is features all 12 BBL teams split geographically into two groups of six, with the top four in each group advancing into the knockout stages.

– BBL Trophy

The BBL Trophy is one of the much-heralded peripheral competitions in British basketball, and has been running for as long as the BBL with a fascinating twenty-seven year history.

– BBL Play-Offs

The BBL Play-offs are the season-ending competition, contested between the top 8 BBL Championship teams.

BBL Rules

Games in the BBL are played according to official FIBA rules, with games consisting of four-quarters of 10 minutes each, 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.

However, during the BBL Cup and Play-Offs, the final score is decided on aggregate over two-legs.

BBL Organisational Structure

The BBL is an independent company owned by its member clubs, which runs the top men’s professional league in the UK. Each club has an equal shareholding in BBL and has a representative on the BBL Board of Directors, thus is a part of all decision-making.

There is a central BBL office, from which league-wide administration, marketing and media is undertaken, although the clubs are spread across the country.

There are no other parties who vote on the major decisions that affect the BBL’s future.

When it comes to matters such as determining what the BBL Rules should be, or setting the future strategic direction of the BBL through the Business Plan, it’s the BBL clubs who decide.

The Shareholders meet twice a year to discuss and vote on these key decisions.

Because getting eleven separate clubs round the table can be difficult – and because it’s good to get expert strategic advice from those who aren’t involved in the day to day running of a club – the BBL also has a Management Board.

Again, the clubs are in control of the process as they decide exactly who should be on the board, which is made up of an independent chairman and non-executive directors, and a minority of BBL club directors. You can see the current members of the Management Board by clicking here.

The Management Board meet typically every two months to oversee the implementation of the Business Plan, and set and monitor key targets.

The current Members of the BBL Management Board are as follows:

Sir Rodney Walker (Chairperson)
Simon Brown
Edward Lord OBE

Yuri Matischen
Kevin Routledge

They also oversee the work of the senior professional staff who have day to day responsibility for the operation of the BBL and its competitions, major events and marketing communications. The team of nine staff, including the Chief Operating Officer, is based at the BBL’s Headquarters in Leicester.

– BBL Chairs

John Deacon (1987 to 1988)
Kevin Routledge (1988 to 2002)
Vince Macaulay (2002 to 2006)
Paul Blake (2006 to 2013)
Ed Percival (2013 to 2015)
Sir Rodney Walker (2016 to present)

BBL Teams in Europe

Despite the BBL’s rich history of teams competing in Europe, in the 2019-20 season there are no teams competing internationally.

The most recent team to take the plunge were the Leicester Riders in the 2018–19 season when they entered the Basketball Champions League – they ended an 11 year drought of British club teams competing in Europe.