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Big Cats to join British League next year
1:25pm Wednesday 4th July 2012 in Sport
ESSEX Leopards have joined the British Basketball League (BBL), and will take part in the action from the 2013/14 season.
The Big Cats won the EBL Division One league, play-off and National Cup title last season, and managing director Gareth Roberts is delighted the club will step up to the top flight.
He said: “We are really pleased to be able to bring professional basketball back to Essex.
“When we reformed the club in 2004 this was always our aim and we are very pleased to now be in a position to play again at the top level of British basketball.”
The original Leopards club competed in the BBL between 1994 and 2003, winning a league and cup double in 1997 and retaining the league title the following season.
The club withdrew in 2003, and fans of the side bought the Ware Rebels franchise in 2004 and are now entering their ninth season in Division One.
They won the National Cup in 2005/6, and have only once missed out on the play-offs in their eight years in the competition.
The Big Cats will continue to compete in Division One during the forthcoming 2012/13 season while their develop their fan base, and club chairman Fred Dicker was keen to stress they are still looking to be successful in their final EBL season.
He added: “We’re really excited about the prospect of BBL basketball in Essex, and we hope to enter the competition having successfully defended our three titles.”
Leopards have one of the biggest community programmes outside the BBL, having provided coaching and lifestyle information to over 4,000 children last season through the Hoops 4 Health scheme and other projects.
BBL chairman Paul Blake said: “We are delighted to welcome the Essex Leopards to the BBL.
“Their community ethos matches perfectly with our own model and we are delighted to re-establish a presence in an area which is renowned for basketball.
“We have also been impressed with the way the Leopards have developed their club, which they have demonstrated has very strong foundations.
“With Essex Leopards and Birmingham already confirmed for the 2013-14 season, we are extremely excited by the growth and development of the league.”