The end of professional Basketball in Leeds

Image Credit: [Daily Star]

The Leeds Force franchise withdrew from the British Basketball League in June, ending four years in Britain’s top-flight division. The club announced on Twitter that “It is with great sadness, we announce the 2017/18 was our last. We would like to place on record our thanks to everyone who made the last four years a truly special journey #FeelTheForce”.

The 2017/18 season was a troubled one for the West Yorkshire outfit, who ended the season in last place with 32 losses and only 1 win, with a points difference of -1091.

Image Credit: [@forcebball]
The decision to withdraw came after a review from the league. The club indicated “it was no longer in a position to continue in the British Basketball League”, with problems over investment and competitiveness moving forward cited. In their statement, the club argued “providing the necessary investment to maintain a competitive team on the floor” had become “unsustainable”.

Ex-player Aidan Appleyard, who was at the club for 3 of their 4 years in the BBL, stated the 2017/18 season was “a massive transition for the club with a new coach and owner taking over”. This transition was a factor in the Force failing to remain competitive in the BBL. For Appleyard and other Force players, this has meant a drop in the level of basketball for the foreseeable future, “my mentality, lifestyle and training regime will remain the same as playing professionally, I just will no longer be playing at the professional level”, he says, after the Force’s decision caused a shift in focus for much of the roster.

Leeds gained the franchise in 2014/15 playing against the likes of Manchester Giants and London Lions. Unfortunately, local fans will now have to travel to Sheffield to watch professional basketball, as Sheffield Sharks are the sole Yorkshire representative in the BBL.

Hopes remain that the Force can return, especially as basketball grows as a sport in the UK. It is unclear, however, what the future holds for the sport in the region, as the franchise’s decision in June confirms the end of professional basketball in West Yorkshire for the foreseeable future.

Cian Fox