Consultation to consider adopting your ideas for improving the NBL Competitions for 2018/19

This important correspondence outlines the ideas that have been generated by the numerous clubs, club secretaries, coaches, players, and our regional roadshows/research during the past 18 months. This consultation document supersedes the previous correspondence which we feel did not convey the intentions and the spirit of what we are trying to achieve clearly enough. It has led to some confusion as to whether this was shared as a decision or consultation on a range of improvements. For clarity, it is a consultation. It also contained some wording that was ambiguous or with insufficient rationale. This document has been revised to make this clearer as a consultation for your consideration. Thank you for taking time to consider these ideas for change.

The overall purpose of engaging with you is to consult you on the ideas that have been fed back to Basketball England that will provide a more meaningful level of competition across the various divisions within the NBL, and to improve the experience of players, parents, club volunteers, coaches and officials throughout the whole of the season.

We are issuing this revision because many people have taken time to share their thoughts about the future of the NBL and we value their opinion. Many members have worked constructively with Basketball England over the past 18 months during our major consultation and engagement process to suggest numerous improvements.  

In recognition of this, we want everyone involved in the League to have the chance to consider these points and feedback. What is very clear to us is that the improvements we have made in the 2017/18 season have been well received and clubs want to see further improvements for next season. Having a thriving competitive structure that supports player development, progression, fun, and a sense of achievement is critical to support participation and the growing popularity in our sport.    

So, in re-presenting the ideas for change, we have distilled the feedback and research for you to consider as potential improvements to the NBL. We would welcome your feedback on the ideas summarized below by 6 June 2018. The most constructive and helpful way to share your views and influence the ideas for change is by emailing

We have provided this opportunity for consultation on the ideas from clubs to allow everyone to comment so we can make the changes work for as many clubs and players as possible. Please note that these ideas are not decisions, so your feedback to influence what we include this coming season is important to all of us in the game. 

Immediately after the 6 June 2018 we will be analyzing the feedback, conclude on the findings and confirm the improvements that will add value to the game and league experience. The changes for 2018/19 will be published on the Basketball England website on 7 June 2018. Some of the feedback will also help us form a longer-term plan for our national, regional and local league structures and competitions. We will be sharing with you for your views later in 2018 so you can influence the longer-term improvements for the game.

In addition, we have extended the deadline for NBL entries to 9am 13 June 2018.

Ideas to improve the Senior NBL Competitions

Focus - League structure adaptations

We want to continue to support and develop our senior level competition as a thriving league that allows clubs to compete, improve, enjoy the game and challenge for promotion, whilst developing their players, club appeal and capability. A key part of the player experience and satisfaction of clubs relates to a highly contested and competitive league with quality venues and high standards of officiating.

Ideas for change

We are not proposing changes to the league structures for senior divisions, but we are considering capping the number of teams we accept into Division 4 Men. This may limit the amount of new entries that we accept into the competitions.

By doing this we are confident that we can meet the demands of the leagues with more effective deployment of officials across the country. This will also keep each league consistent in terms of numbers of teams and league games. We will also be increasing the supply of officials with a new recruitment campaign to increase the number of people available to officiate and up skill the officials to help progression and standards.  

These are the proposed number of teams to be permitted in NBL:

  • Division One Men = 14
  • Division Two Men = 12
  • Division Three Men - Two leagues North and South = 12 teams per league
  • Division Four Men - Four leagues regionally split = 12 teams per league
  • WNBL One = 12
  • WNBL Two - Number to be based on entries into league with an aim of 10/12 teams in two leagues.

Focus – Review the purpose/benefit of the Men’s National Trophy (Division One Men) / Men’s Patron’s Cup (Division Two Men) / National Shield (Division Three Men)

You may recall that we recently surveyed clubs regarding these competitions and whether clubs wished for these competitions to be discontinued or not.

The feedback didn’t show a strong preference for keeping or withdrawing. The main feedback from the clubs did include how teams use the competitions for slightly different purposes and are summarized below:

  • Teams treat these competitions (especially the National Trophy and Patrons Cup) as a pre-season event, meaning the competition can be at a lower standard with teams not at full strength.
  • The fixtures provide additional games that provide clubs with additional income, although some clubs stated that these additional fixtures were unnecessary in an already busy schedule.

We have two options for you to consider.

  1. Continuing with the current arrangement (leaving the current competition to continue in its existing form).
  2. Test the option of moving the competition to November / December months of the season as a pre-Christmas break event. This change may require the NBL season to start earlier. This calendar change may cause some challenges to some clubs so this needs to be part of our considerations. The option for a November/December tournament will help to ensure that teams are at full strength for their allocated fixtures which will improve the competitiveness of the leagues. It will also ensure that any postponed league fixtures do not build up. The semi-finals would then take place in January, with the Finals in February.

Nothing would be set permanently, we could trial this for one season and then assess club feedback again ahead of the 2019/20 season. Views on the merits/preference on the options are welcome.

Focus – New clubs and teams being fully aware of the commitments to compete in the NBL

Some clubs entering teams into the NBL can be under prepared to fulfill a full season from a standards, player numbers and/or resourcing perspective.

Ideas for change

Basketball England intend to inform clubs better and apply a more stringent check of new clubs/teams entering the NBL. This will help ensure that the club and overall league experience is operating at the right level of competition and helps to sustain league membership and retain participation.

Reinforcing existing NBL regulation no. 7 – team names  

We understand that there was some confusion in the point we raised in relation to team names. To be clear, we are not saying that Universities and Colleges cannot enter our competitions we are merely asking teams to ensure that team names are assigned and used in line with our existing regulations.

The regulation currently states:

7.1        All team names are subject to final approval by Basketball England.

7.2      All team names must include a specific geographical location (the county, city or town where the team / venue is based). A nickname can also be included (Rockets, Magic etc.).

7.3        Any sponsor names are subject to approval by Basketball England. Only the approved geographical location and nickname will be used in Basketball England’s official schedules, but this will not prevent the usage of sponsor names in match publicity etc.

We are happy to take any feedback on this.

Ideas to improve the Junior National League Competitions

Focus - future junior league structures

After a successful season and some enhancements to the Junior Final Fours, we would like to build on this and further consider other changes that will improve our league structures for junior players. In considering this, we want to generate a thriving national junior league that will accomplish short and longer-term improvements to help achieve the following:

  • a meaningful level of competition for junior players aged 18 and under, for male and female players
  • a league structure that provides logical and accessible progression as players improve
  • over time, reduce the costs and travel times for all involved
  • underpin girl’s competitions with participation campaigns to grow more opportunities for playing and competing locally and feed into accessible national league structures

The short-term ideas to improve the junior leagues are as follows:

Under 13 and Below Age Group Competitions including a focus on girl’s participation

Clubs have fed back requesting that we consider introducing a new age group competition to be operated on a regional level. We are considering starting this at under 13 level with an emphasis on increasing girl’s participation. We have had additional feedback on leagues for lower age groups and we would like your views on introducing these for this season and beyond. In support of this we will be launching a new women and girls campaign and we will be partnering with clubs to further develop this idea.   

This league is aimed at participation and encouraging regional and local development of players. It will give players regular playing opportunities with the opportunity to develop their skills and love of basketball by giving players even playing minutes. This will also contribute to tackling the disparity between male and female players participating in basketball at this age which we know is a priority that clubs want us to address.  

This initial proposal includes two leagues per region; a mixed league (only for clubs who do not have an outlet for female players) and a female only league running from October to March with no national playoffs or cup competitions. However, depending on demand and your views this idea could be further developed.

The rules for the competition for under 13s or other age groups would follow if the idea is adopted.

Under 14, Under 16, Under 18 Male Premier Competitions

To reduce travel time and costs, we are proposing to increase the number of divisions from two to three with North, Midlands and South divisions featuring 10 to 12 teams in each league. Participating in the Premier Competitions will be the only route for teams to progress to the national playoffs, with the top 8 teams in each league qualifying. This will create a more meaningful competition for all teams all season long.

We are also proposing that the National Cups for Under 16s and Under 18s will continue and teams from the Regional Leagues will still be invited to enter these.

Under 14, Under 16, Under 18 Female Competitions

We propose that these leagues will continue in their present format, but we shall assess the structures on receipt of applications. The playoff format will also be assessed and devised once league structures have been announced. 

The National Cups for Under 16 and Under 18 will continue

Under 14, Under 16, Under 18 Male Regional Leagues

These leagues will operate as per previous season.

Teams from these leagues will be invited to enter the Under 16s and Under 18s National Cups.

We would like your views on the value of regional teams competing against premier teams in the playoffs because we want to ensure that players are engaged in meaningful post-season competition.      

Junior National Cup Finals

We are proposing to organise the Junior National Cup Finals at the same weekend and venue as the Senior National Cup Finals in late January to increase the prominence of the competitions and position them alongside their senior counterparts.

Entry and Age Restrictions

In order to protect children and consider their welfare, we are very mindful of providing guidance for young people being allocated to age group teams. We are suggesting the guidance below on age restrictions based on child year of birth from September:

  • Under 13 - minimum age permitted is 10 years old.
  • Under 14 - minimum age permitted to play is 11 years old
  • Under 16 - minimum age permitted to play is 13 years old
  • Under 18 - minimum age permitted to play is 15 years old
  • Seniors - aimed at 16 plus – Players under 16 years of age will be considered by application only so we can consider.

We are considering limiting the number of teams entering one age group competition from a single club, should the division be oversubscribed.

Focus - Zone Defence

After considerable feedback on this and comparisons with other countries we are proposing some changes to the application of zone defence.

Under 13 and Under 14 age groups will still continue to adopt the ‘No Zone Defence’ rule, implemented by FIBA.  At the Premier Under 16 and Under 18 competitions, there will be no restrictions, teams can play either types of defence. 

At the regional levels of the competition we want to apply a no or limited zone defence rule to help the players develop more. To achieve this we have two options:

  • No zone defence
  • Hybrid zone defence - zone defence will only be permitted in quarters 1 and 3. Man to man defence can be played throughout but mandatory in quarters 2 and 4.

Whichever option is chosen, we will review the impact on player development and retention, and deployment of officials throughout the first season.  

Entry Requirements for New Teams

Please refer to the new team entry pack for details on NBL entry requirements. 

Your views really count…

Thank you for taking time to read through the proposed changes. These are not set in stone and I hope you can see that we are listening to the clubs and many others in the sport and acting on ideas to improve game. We will distill all the feedback and then adopt the ideas that we feel represent the game well in terms of having a competitive and accessible league that generate great games, opportunities for players and clubs to develop, and keep thousands of people interested in playing and staying engaged for life.

Please send your views on what you agree with, don’t agree with or would like us to consider further and we will take these matters on board wherever practicable. We know we can’t satisfy every individual requirement, but we promise to consider all points and arrive at a better league providing better experiences for more people in the game going forward.

We look forward to hearing from you by 6 June 2018.

From the NBL team at Basketball England


Tel:       0300 600 1170