Essex PiratesThe British Basketball League (BBL) is delighted to confirm that the Essex Pirates Basketball Club will compete in the BBL Championship from the commencement of the 2009/10 season in September.

The new franchise will be based in Southend and play home games at the Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre. The County of Essex has a long and established history of basketball development and the introduction of the Pirates franchise marks a return to top-flight action for the County.

The Essex Pirates team is the top of a developmental pyramid created by GB Coach Tim Lewis and long time basketball operator Ian Mollard. Alongside the new BBL franchise there is an AASE programme (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence) run through South East Essex College, an England Basketball Division IV team and a non-profit community coaching company which is already delivering coaching into Primary Schools across the county and hopes to expand coaching through the introduction of the BBL & EB's successful Hoops 4 Health initiative. Other exciting coaching and educational initiatives are set to launch in September.

BBL Chairman Paul Blake enthused, "We are delighted to invite this new exciting franchise into the BBL. Essex has a strong tradition of basketball participation and support and the plans that this organisation have to further develop the basketball community in this territory are very much in line with the strategic direction of the BBL. This is first time the league has entertained 13 teams since the 2000/01 season. We are looking to make further franchise development progress in the next two to three years as a priority in identified territories as we look to expand to 16 teams. We wish the new franchise the best of luck for the forth coming season both on and off the court."

Ian Mollard said, 'We have all worked exceptionally hard to create an environment in Essex and particularly Southend where development of talented young players is a priority for us going forward. The Council in Southend have been exceptional in their support and enthusiasm to bring top professional basketball to the County and recognise the potential of the sport with the London Olympics rapidly approaching'

The BBL will be announcing their competition format for next season in the coming days with the fixture schedule anticipated to be announced by the end of June.


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