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University of East London becomes major partner of London Lions basketball team

Taneka Hero

The partnership will extend across the rest of the BBL season in 2020

The University of East London has strengthened its strategic partnership with the London Lions, the capital’s trophy-winning professional basketball team, as part of the University’s goal to become London’s leading global sports university.

Vice-chancellor and president, Professor Amanda Broderick, said “On court, our partnership is visible to supporters and players at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London. Beyond game day, the Lions and the University will work together to strengthen elite sport and create career pathways for students from diverse fields, such as media, physiotherapy and sports management.”

The partnership was officially launched at the Lions home game against Bristol Flyers on 18 December and will extend across the rest of the BBL season in 2020. This is an Olympic year, and the partnership creates a tangible legacy link to the London 2012 Olympics, when the all-star US basketball squad trained at the University’s SportsDock complex.

Meanwhile, the Lions, which set up home in the capital in 2013, are aiming to make further moves to establish themselves as a force in British basketball. The Lions are fresh from winning the British Basketball League (BBL) Championship in the 2018/19 season, and the British All-Stars Championship in October, and they are pushing ahead with plans to boost their squad and brand presence.

This includes the arrival last month (November) of high-profile Great Britain international and Sky Sports pundit Ovie Soko. The London-born forward is a marquee signing with a strong pedigree as an international player, but he is perhaps best known as a star of the fifth series of ITV’s ‘Love Island’ reality television show, where he placed third.

Dr Ian Pickup, the University’s chief operating officer, said, “We’re extremely pleased and proud to be partnering with the London Lions.
“The University of East London has a long tradition of elite sport that our connection with the Lions can only strengthen and deepen. Our athletes will have privileged access to professional sporting opportunities while students will gain invaluable experience with a professional sports franchise. 

“Beyond the court and the campus, the Lions and the University will promote increased participation in both sport and education, in keeping with the goals of Vision 2028, the University’s 10-year plan, to improve wellbeing within our local and global communities.”

Vince Macaulay, chief executive and head coach of the London Lions, said, “We are pleased and excited to be extending our partnership with the University of East London. Together we can support the development of basketball in the capital and teach more young people to live and love this sport.

This collaboration comes at a pivotal time for the Lions. We’re the current BBL Champions and we’re looking to retain our title in 2020. With the reigning MVP in Justin Robinson and a number of talented players, we wanted to take the next step, that’s one of the reasons we signed Ovie Soko.

“Not only is he a proven basketball pro, he has the star quality to capture the imagination of a new generation of fans – and that includes present and future students of the University.”

This is not the first time that the University and the London Lions have worked to bring sport and education together.

In November 2018, the two institutions collaborated to give players access to educational opportunities and students the ability to take up internships and work experience. The London Lions train and play some home games at SportsDock, with the University’s teams able to call on the coaching support of Lions professionals.