National Basketball League (England)
The National Basketball League, or NBL for short, is a British basketball league. The league started in 1972 and continued through to 2003 when it was restructured and renamed the English Basketball League (EBA) National League. Until 1987 it was the first tier and only league system in England.
In 1960 a National Basketball League was introduced with nine members – Borehamwood Bullets, Watford Royals, Nottingham Dodgers, Aspley Old Boys (Nottingham), Birmingham Athletic Institute, Birmingham Dolobran, Doncaster Panthers, Manchester YMCA Comets, and Billingham Tech. However the London teams felt that competition was strong enough in their own London League so they shunned the new national competition. The two strongest teams in the country were Central YMCA and London Poly both from London and their omission had a detrimental effect on the standard of the National League.
A change of format in 1965-66 produced three sections, with a total of 16 teams, including two from Scotland; with a change of name to the British Basketball League known as the ‘Rosebowl’.
By 1972, the Scots had their own thriving National League, though also competing in the “Rose Bowl”, but when a London team, Sutton, defeated Edinburgh’s Boroughmuir Barrs in the 1972 Final, the Basketball Association decided that it was time to relaunch the idea of an English National League.
In 1972 the National League truly took off. The first season comprised just six clubs, plucked from regional and district leagues around the country, and was run in effect as a trial league. The six teams consisted of London-based teams Avenue (Leyton) and Sutton, Sheffield YMCA Scorpions and Liverpool Bruno Roughcutters from the North, Midlands club Loughborough All-Stars and touring team RAF Fliers.
After several successful seasons, expansion was implemented to 10 teams, and 1975 saw the addition of Division 2. The 1978–79 season was the first to adopt the post-season playoff format, while a year later the National Trophy was created.
In 1987, there was a breakaway by the league's elite clubs looking to formulate a fully professional league in the United Kingdom. The new league, operated by a new body, British Basketball League, was established as the country's top and only fully professional basketball league, though it retained the name National League Division 1, which was followed by Division 2 and Division 3 beneath it. The league was sponsored by Carlsberg and was known as the Carlsberg League.
In 1993, the NBL restructured once again after the top division reverted to the name BBL Championship. Because of this, the lower divisions were renamed and restructured to fit accordingly. From the 1993-94 British Basketball League season, Division 1 was renamed as the Budweiser Basketball League (BBL), thus having a domino effect where the previous Division 2 was rebranded as NBL Division 1 and Division 3 became Division 2, forming the bottom of the three-tiered National League structure.
That season also saw the last relegation between the top-two divisions (BBL and Division 1), as last-placed Oldham Celtics were demoted into the new Division 1 for 1994–95. Their replacements were Sheffield Forgers and Leopards, which signalled the start of the current 'buy-in' policy operated by the BBL, whereby teams can only buy a place in the league, operating a franchise system. 1997 saw the addition of Division 3 to the structure, welcoming new teams such as Reading Rockets, Taunton Tigers and the Manchester Giants B team.
In 1999, the BBL restructured with a North-South conference system, and the following year the National Basketball League replaced Division 1 with the eight-team NBL Conference as the second-tier after the BBL. Subsequently Division 2 became Division 1 and Division 3 became Division 2, with the addition of a new Division 3 forming effectively the fifth-tier of the structure.
However Division 3 only lasted for one season, as another reorganisation took place the following year, in 2001, which saw an expanded NBL Conference and Division 1, while Divisions 2 and 3 merged to form a regionalised format, with Division 2 North and Division 2 South. In 2003, after three seasons, the BBL ditched its North-South Conference format, and reverted to a single league of ten clubs. During the same year, the National Basketball League was rebranded as the English Basketball League, and once again was restructured with a new format.
English Basketball League 2003-present
The Conference was disbanded, and EBL reverted the National Leagues to EBL Division 1, Division 2 and a regionalised North-South Division 3, with Division 4 (a reincarnation of the one-time old Division 3 of 2000) returning to the fold in 2006.
- Basketball in England
- British Basketball League
- English Basketball League
- List of English National Basketball League seasons