Loughborough’s unique combination of outstanding sports facilities, world-leading performance support and Para sport infrastructure has led to it being the home of British Wheelchair Basketball (BWB) and a BWB centre of excellence for wheelchair basketball teams.
This announcement marks the launch of British Wheelchair Basketball’s inaugural Women’s Premier League – the very first professional para-sport league in the UK in which the new Lightning side will compete.
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.
The High-Performance Partnerships will be centres of excellence for wheelchair basketball in the UK for both men and women. These Partnerships will develop and nurture wheelchair basketball talent, acting as hubs to incubate and develop future elite athletes and increase access to the Paralympic talent pathways across the UK.
Nik Diaper, Head of Para Sport, Loughborough University, said:
“To be awarded the High-Performance Partnership is testament to the vision, hard work, and dedication we have to Para sport at Loughborough University. The new Lightning team will undoubtedly attract some of the country’s top female sporting talent and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can achieve.”
Loughborough is one of four universities selected for the partnership, with other franchises based at Cardiff Metropolitan University, University of East London, and the University of Worcester.
John Steele, Executive Director of Sport, Loughborough University, said:
“At Loughborough, we are constantly looking to evolve our offer and our commitment to developing women’s sport at the highest level has never been stronger.
“With British Wheelchair Basketball based on campus, and its GB performance camps taking place here, the new Lightning team strengthens our partnership even further and aligns perfectly with our Para sport strategy.
“We are delighted to be breaking new ground and leading the way in this sector.”
Lisa Pearce, British Wheelchair Basketball’s Chief Executive, added:
“I am absolutely delighted to be announcing the creation of British Wheelchair Basketball’s Women’s Premier League and our new High-Performance Partnerships. 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.
“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.”
The creation of the Women’s Premier League is integral to British Wheelchair Basketball’s 12-year strategy, which set out bold targets of delivering a Professional Domestic League, developing a world-class high-performance system and doubling participation in the sport.
Loughborough will now begin recruiting elite players for the Lightning side and its university BUCS team.
To find out more, visit www.britishwheelchairbasketball.co.uk/womens-premier-league.