The BBL have announced that they have granted a franchise to Essex Leopards, who join the league ahead of the 2013/14 season.
It has been a busy period of league expansion, following on from the news that Manchester Giants and East London Royals are joining the league immediately ahead of the new campaign in September, while a franchise in Birmingham will enter alongside the Leopards in 2013.
BBL Chairman Paul Blake said: “We are delighted to welcome the Essex Leopards to the BBL. Their community ethos matches perfectly with our own model and we are delighted to re-establish a presence in an area which is renowned for basketball. We have also been impressed with the way the Leopards have developed their Club over the last number of years, which they have demonstrated has very strong foundations.
“With new franchises in Manchester and East London this season just announced, and now Essex Leopards and Birmingham already confirmed for the 2013-14 season, we are extremely excited by the growth and development of the League.”
Essex previously had a BBL presence with the Pirates, who left the league on the eve of the 2011/12 season.
The Leopards won the EBL Division One league, play-off and National Cup titles last season, and boast one of the biggest community programmes outside of the BBL.
Managing Director Gareth Roberts said: “We are really pleased to be able to bring professional basketball back to Essex, When we reformed the club in 2004, this was always our aim and we are very pleased to now be in a position to play again at the top level of British Basketball.”
It means that the 2013/14 season could start with 15 teams in the BBL, including franchises in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.