Loughborough University to launch new Lightning wheelchair basketball team

Loughborough University has been selected as a High-Performance Partner for British Wheelchair Basketball in a move that will also see the formation of a brand-new Lightning team.

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.”

The University now has five Lightning teams in total, including in netballrugby, cricket, and cycling.

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

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 21/56

Notes for editors

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in the Guardian University League Table 2021, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2021.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.