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East London Phoenix to join first professional women's wheelchair basketball league

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UEL-led franchise - East London Phoenix - become first professional para-sport side in the capital  

British Wheelchair Basketball has today (Tuesday 20 April) announced the creation of the inaugural Women’s Premier League, which will feature four university-based franchises – including the East London Phoenix, the only side to be based in the capital and who will play out of the University of East London (UEL).

The British Wheelchair Basketball Women’s Premier League will be the first of its kind for women’s wheelchair basketball in the world, and the very first professional para-sport league in the UK.

“We feel incredibly privileged to be entrusted with one of the first professional women’s wheelchair basketball franchises in the country,” said Dr Ian Pickup, pro vice-chancellor for education and experience at UEL.

“We are now looking forward to building something which East London can really get behind. Women’s sport, across the board, is growing all the time and I am proud of the role that UEL is playing in supporting female athletes.”

The introduction of the league is a game-changing moment for the sport and will attract the world’s best wheelchair basketball players, signposting the UK as a destination for high level, quality competition for aspiring female talent. The first season will run from December 2021 to May 2022.

Four High-Performance Partnerships (HPPs), operating at university sites across the UK, will each have a franchise involved in the new competition, with UEL joined by Cardiff Metropolitan University, Loughborough University and the University of Worcester.

The HPPs will be centres of excellence for wheelchair basketball in the UK for both men and women. They’ll work to develop and nurture wheelchair basketball talent, acting as hubs to develop future elite athletes and increase access to the Paralympic talent pathways across the UK.

Lisa Pearce, British Wheelchair Basketball’s chief executive, said: “The league will provide incredible opportunities for elite female talent, both in the UK and internationally and we expect the teams to attract the best players in the world.

“We have selected four fantastic universities to become the first British Wheelchair Basketball High-Performance Partnerships and these hubs will be absolutely central to the sport as we work to deliver our World Class Performance Programme strategy. They will nurture talent and facilitate the opportunity for world-class athletes to adopt a dual career approach.”

The High-Performance Partnerships are now recruiting elite players for their Women’s Premier League teams and their university BUCS teams, and Dr Pickup was keen to emphasise how the new team will represent more than just the University.

“The East London Phoenix will be a team that represents the city. I’m sure they will inspire and encourage the next generation of female athletes – and not just wheelchair basketball players – so this really is a landmark moment for us, and sport in London,” he said.

“We’ve worked hard over the last decade to turn our sports offering into one of the best in the country, for both elite and recreational athletes, and to now have a franchise is another step on the journey.

“UEL is a university that is committed to providing its students pathways to explore different career options and we have a number of dual-career athletes. A host of players who will represent the Phoenix will be just that, giving them options to not only play elite sport but develop other skills and interests away from the game."

To find out more, visit the British Wheelchair Basketball website.