European basketball is heading to Tyneside after the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles confirmed ambitious plans to realise a long-held dream.
Homecourt fans are guaranteed at least three midweek fixtures against top class overseas opposition next season with Marc Steutel’s men joining Bristol Flyers in the European North Basketball League (ENBL).
And an exciting move means the Vertu Motors Arena will welcome competitive European basketball to the region for the first time in 33-years when, as the Sunderland Saints, the franchise faced Greece’s PAOK in the 1990–91 FIBA European Cup Winners’ Cup.
The decision to join the ENBL follows this week’s announcement that the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles is the new name for professional basketball in the North East.
And owner Paul Blake admitted it’s high time the rebranded and refocused Eagles spread their wings following decades of success on the domestic stage.
“It’s been a long-held ambition of the club to test itself against top European clubs and we feel the time is right to take the next step,” he explained.
“We have a world class basketball arena and a head coach who’s proved himself on the international stage with Great Britain.
“Hosting leading European clubs has become a regular feature of our pre-season programmes and the feedback we get from the visiting teams is always 100 per cent positive.
“Everything points towards playing competitive basketball against overseas opposition.
“Joining the ENBL is an excellent opportunity to enhance our reputation on the global stage and to take Newcastle Eagles to the next level.”
Founded in 2021, the ENBL is one of the fastest growing basketball leagues in Europe.
Newcastle and Bristol could compete against clubs from Holland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Kosovo, Israel and Ukraine.
The top four teams from two groups will advance to the ENBL playoffs, before a final four held at a central location in April 2024.
And that means Eagles fans can look forward to a minimum of three homecourt clashes as midweek European basketball takes its bow on Tyneside.
“We’ve come off the back of one of our best supported seasons ever and I’m convinced our fans will get behind the club’s inaugural ENBL campaign,” said head coach Steutel.
“It’s a really exciting move for everyone involved with the club — from players to coaches and staff to volunteers.
“I’m hoping this will be an opportunity to celebrate everything that’s positive about the Eagles organisation and reward the people who’ve put so much into the franchise for so many years.
“We’re very proud to be joining Bristol in the ENBL. When we looked into the league and the calibre of the opposition it just seemed like the perfect move.
“The players who we’re speaking to as part of this summer’s recruitment process all see the step into Europe as a huge positive.
“And from a personal perspective I can’t wait to test myself against top overseas opposition having experienced some incredible nights with Great Britain.”
Romania’s CSO Voluntari, who beat Leicester Riders in last season’s Basketball Champions League qualifiers, have been added to this season’s ENBL competition.
The 2021 Romanian Cup winners join Bristol and Holland’s Landstede Hammers in the first raft of clubs confirmed to take part.
“European North Basketball League has been one of the fastest developing international basketball and sports projects in the last few years,” said ENBL Secretary General, Edgars Zanders.
“We are proud to be working with so many countries represented by great basketball teams.
“This is another opportunity to open up European basketball to UK fans after Bristol joined the ENBL.
“The Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles are the most successful British basketball team with 27 trophies in 19 seasons. The franchise will be an amazing addition to the ENBL’s 2023-24 season.”
The draw for the 2023-24 ENBL campaign takes place mid-August with ticket details and fixtures to follow.