Women’s basketball in Manchester has been given a big boost with the news that the Manchester Mystics is to relocate its WBBL team to the new National Basketball Performance Centre (NBPC) at Belle Vue Sports Village.
As part of this hugely significant move, ownership of the WBBL team will also transfer to Eastlands Trust.
The double announcement represents an important moment for women’s sport in Manchester.
It means the city’s number one women’s basketball team will be playing in a brand new arena that has already hosted Great Britain women’s internationals.
It also marks the start of a fresh drive to grow the game, both at elite and community level in Manchester.
The aim is to turn the Mystics into the number one team in the country, to get more girls playing the game and to make Manchester a top destination for female players.
‘Statement of intent’
The WBBL team will be coached by Jeff Jones, a widely respected figure within both the Manchester and UK basketball scene.
The first game at the new venue will take place on 8 October, with Barking Abbey Crusaders providing the opposition in an expanded 10-team competition.
Rebecca Livesey, chief operating officer for Eastlands Trust, said: “Relocating the Mystics, the top women’s team in Manchester to the National Basketball Performance Centre, is a statement of intent for women’s basketball in the city. The move will create the aspirational aspect for girls who currently play basketball and inspire the next generation of players that will come through the ranks.”
Andy Webb, the WBBL’s chief operating officer, added: “It’s great to see one of our WBBL clubs receiving such strong support from its community partners and to be moving into a fantastic purpose-built Arena for the new season ahead. It is yet another positive development in the growth of the WBBL and will be a tremendous venue for fans to watch the games.”
‘A major competitor’
The WBBL team will retain strong links with its former home at the Amaechi Basketball Centre (ABC) in Whalley Range.
The team will split training between the NBPC and ABC, which will continue to be the headquarters for the Mystics’ hugely successful age-group programme, which fields teams at Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 level.
Joe Forber, who heads the Mystic age-group programme, said: “Transferring the WBBL team to Eastlands Trust will create the opportunity to move the team forward and to be a major competitor at the top level of British women’s basketball. This will give a massive boost to the growth and development of girls basketball in Manchester at all levels. I want our young girls to have the ambition and drive to play at the top level of British basketball. The WBBL team playing at the NBPC gives them a wonderful opportunity as they move on with their basketball careers.”
‘Success on and off the court’
The ABC is also home to the successful Magic and Mystics community programme, which gives children of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to play basketball.
It has produced a string of top-class players that have gone on to play for their country and enjoy successful college careers in the United States.
Going forward, the Magic and Mystics will work together with Eastlands Trust to continue nurturing future stars as well as collaborating to promote the Mystics name.
Councillor Luthur Rahman, executive member for Culture and Leisure, Manchester City Council, commented: “It’s great to see these positive developments in women’s basketball, as the council and its partners seek to widen access to our facilities for all residents. We look forward to seeing the Mystics succeed on court and also to seeing more women and girls from our local communities trying the sport, at yet another world class facility available to our residents.”