The National League structure in Basketball is to expand once again and next season will see 49 teams competing as opposed to 42 in 2017/18.
This provides even more strength to the divisions enabling promotion from the Northern and Southern conferences in Division One on both Men’s and Women’s to the elite of the Premier League.
New additions to the Men’s Super League next season will see the promotion of Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin and Neptune BC to the division at the cost of Éanna and KUBS, who will play their basketball in the Men’s Division One next year.
In the Women’s Super League meanwhile, Marble City Hawks and Fr Mathews have been promoted to the Super League to make a 10-team league, while Portlaoise Panthers have been regraded to the Women’s Division One.
The real growth in demand, now being satisfied, is at the Division One level providing a strong pathway for clubs.
The Men’s Division One league will expand from 14 teams last season to 17 teams this year, with nine teams playing in the Southern Conference and eight in the Northern, stretching from Sligo and Donegal to Dublin.
The Women’s Division One will expand from seven teams last year, to a 10 team league this year, including new teams Phoenix Rockets (Ulster), Maree and St Mary’s Castleisland, as well as a second Limerick team – Limerick Celtics – to bring the total number of national league teams (men’s and women’s) in Limerick to five.
The Women’s Division One will also be played in a conference format, easing the travel burden and cost of teams through the early stages of the campaign.
“The numerical growth of our National League is very encouraging, as indeed is the geographical spread,” said Basketball Ireland Secretary General Bernard O’Byrne.
“However, we also need to be firmly focused on improving and maintaining playing standards, presentation of the games and the need to make all our games family social events.”
“We are heading in the right direction but there is still a lot more to be done.”
The sport is coming off the back of hosting two successful European Championship events in Dublin and Cork over the past twelve months.
TV viewing figures from the National Cup Finals exceeded 300,000 in January while Hula Hoops extended their sponsorship of those tournaments by another three years as well as expanding into a popular 3×3 format staged at Dundrum Town Centre in May.
Finding a sponsor for the National Leagues would be a big win for a sport that would tick a lot of boxes for a sponsor.