The London Lions women’s team have now achieved an unprecedented feat of 50 consecutive wins in the WBBL after defeating the Newcastle Eagles on Saturday. The team won the game 123-43 and now haven’t experienced a domestic loss for 637 days. This is the latest in a string of accomplishments for the team after they achieved invincibility in the WBBL Championship last season – winning all 34 domestic games by an average margin of 40 points. They also completed a domestic clean sweep by winning the WBBL Cup, Trophy, Championship and Play-Off titles.
Beyond what was a momentous season for women’s basketball, these accolades also cemented a historic moment for women’s sport in general, with the Lions arguably positioned as one of the most successful teams in women’s sport. The team is determined to provide a pathway for aspiring young sportswomen in the UK amidst a landmark study from the Lions showing that a quarter of females in the UK feel like progressing in a sport, either at a player or management level is not attractive as there are no role models that look like them.
The team has been buoyed this season by the historic appointment of Vanja Cernivec as the new women’s team General Manager and Global Director of London Lions Academy. Cernivec joins from her previous role as an international scout for the Chicago Bulls – where she became the first female in the NBA’s history to fulfil this position. Vanja’s appointment serves as a legacy moment for women in sport, as Cernivec becomes the first-ever female WBBL General Manager amidst a study from the Lions showing that 63% of females were not made aware of opportunities to work in sports at school.
The Lions’ impressive roster serves as a clear reflection of the rapid growth of the women’s basketball in the UK, as the team completed a number of standout signings for this season including Mikiah ‘Kiki’ Herbert-Harrigan, Katsiaryna Snytsina and Taylor Murray. These are all additionally supporting a stacked roster as the London-based side aim to repeat their monumental achievements last season.
Women in Sport states that 41% of girls aged 5-16 participate in team sports in their last published report in 2021 – a decrease of 7% from the previous year, with black British girls seeing the biggest decrease in activity levels – falling 8% from the previous year. After the Lionesses’ victory in the European Championships last year, the FA set out an aim of 75% of schools to provide access to girls’ football and for 75% of grassroots clubs to have at least one girls’ team. This is an important step to take, but there are still women’s sports that continue to feel neglected in the UK, including basketball.
Although it is estimated that 1.3 million people play basketball on a regular basis in the UK – the sport boasts the highest percentage of players from a non-white British background (47%) – it still ranks 12th for grassroots funding over the last decade with the women’s sport battling further obstacles to receive the funding it deserves. According to UK Sport, Basketball received just £25,000 p.a. between 2018 and 2021 – compared to the £10m p.a. British Rowing received, despite it being the second most popular team sport – marking a strong disparity between its popularity and level of monetary backing.