On April 20, the British Wheelchair Basketball (BWB), a national governing body, launched the world’s first professional women's league, and it’s believed to be the first professional Para sport league in Britain.
As per reports, franchise teams are set to be formed at four universities in the country, all of whom have signed high-performance partnerships with the BWB. The universities include Cardiff Metropolitan University, Loughborough University, the University of East London, and the University of Worcester. As per statements by the BWB, the body is said to have begun recruitment for respective teams, and will see the aforementioned universities become centres of excellence for wheelchair basketball for men and women in the United Kingdom.
In a statement to British press, BWB’s chief executive officer, Lisa Pearce, claimed that this will “provide incredible opportunities for elite female talent, both in the UK and internationally,” and expects it to attract elite players from across 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,” says Pearce.
She further added, “They will nurture talent and facilitate the opportunity for world-class athletes to adopt a dual career approach. Today is an important moment in achieving our big ambitions for the sport and working with the universities is central to raising the profile of the sport, building new audiences and creating more opportunities for people to play across all levels.”
In a statement to British media, Amy Conroy, a member of the British women's team that finished second at the 2018 World Championships, also welcomed the move. “The introduction of the Women’s Premier League is massive for the sport and for us as players,” she said, adding, “Historically there has been a bit of a gap in elite level competition for female players so I’m absolutely thrilled that British Wheelchair Basketball are ensuring we have equal opportunity to develop and flourish. The sport is fast-paced and high-octane, and I can’t wait for more people to be able to watch us in action. I hope that it will also challenge misconceptions about disability sport and inspire more people to try wheelchair basketball for themselves.”