The news that the forthcoming season will feature two additional teams should be welcomed by BBL fans everywhere. After all, they’ll be more games to enjoy and more chances for supporters to see their team on the road – a fun part of any sports fandom.
Yet, the importance of this news is greater than that as the expansion will have several exciting impacts on the top-flight.
Firstly it creates fiercer competition. It’s impossible to say in this close season if the Manchester Giants and East London Royals can challenge for silverware, but, even if like most new franchises they struggle at the foot of the table, there’s nothing stopping them from following Durham’s example of taking points off the longer established BBL clubs and influencing the final league positions. Also, for the 2012/13 season at least, a small rivalry should exist between the two new franchises as they’ll battle for the pride of finishing as high as possible in their debut run.
Speaking of rivalries, this development means fans will be treated to three northwest derbies as opposed to one provided debt-ridden Mersey Tigers don’t fold. Well, here’s hoping. Regardless, it suggests British basketball is in an improved position now there’s the prospect of a trio of northwest clubs operating when in 2006/07 the Cheshire Jets were the areas only representative and they were looking at extinction after losing their main financial backer.
The arrival of a London franchise too makes for happy reading given the city’s Olympic status. This year’s competition has long been seen as a new dawn for basketball in this country given the rise of digital television, social networking and video sharing websites, and services such as BBC iPlayer, combined with the newsworthiness that this is first time a British side have entered the tournament since 1948. That’s fair enough, but without a side based in the English capital this new chapter for the sport would look more like a flawed and half-hearted relaunch.
The return of Manchester side under the Giants banner should increase the BBL’s following and revenue, bringing more stability to what was a chaotic sport around 12 years ago, as it is arguably the best known basketball brand in Britain.
The idea of expansion is likely to be put to rest soon. With BBL Birmingham and Essex Leopards set to join the league next year and the possibility clubs from Belfast, Edinburgh and Reading will be brought in too, this could well be the start of something special.