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Elite sport clubs join forces to create pioneering ‘Women’s Elite Sport Partnership’

Five London and Essex based elite sports clubs are today excited to announce a new collaboration - Women’s Elite Sport Partnership.

This innovative group aims to create a unique and powerful opportunity for women’s sports clubs to collectively work together in order to grow and sustain the development of women’s sport in the UK.

West Ham United women’s team, London Pulse Netball Club, Essex Rebels Basketball Club, Sunrisers women’s cricket (along with partners Essex Cricket and Middlesex Cricket) and London Lions have formed the partnership following in-depth analysis of the challenges facing women in sport today, with the goal of supporting sportswomen in reaching their full potential, as well as continuing to progress elite women’s sport to the next level, in a sustainable fashion.

The five clubs which make up the Women’s Elite Sport Partnership will focus on supporting one another in three main areas; engagement, performance and commercial activity. They will efficiently develop programmes that grow women’s participation in sport, capture new audiences through exciting activations and work together in growing the fan base of the combined professional teams.

In terms of performance, the group’s focus will be around enhancing the player pathway experience, capturing key learnings that encourage each athlete to reach their full potential and growing the support staff structure at all levels, in order to improve the experience of female athletes.

The collaboration will also help to develop efficiencies around key ticketing information and enhancing match day experiences for women’s sports fans. There will also be a specific intention to work together and grow the commercial engagement and revenue within women’s sport, to support the clubs’ shared vision of sustainability.

Jack Sullivan, Managing Director of West Ham United women’s team, said: “Despite 2020 being a really challenging year for sports across the globe, women’s football is gaining huge momentum and we are looking to build on this in 2021, through this fantastic partnership. The collaboration is a great opportunity for us to help each other grow and in turn, we hope that the fans of each team will support us all on this journey. Over time, we hope to welcome even more elite teams across England, giving everyone the same unique opportunity to work collaboratively together. The Club and I are really excited about this partnership and look forward to growing women’s sport further, as we look towards the future.”

Sam Bird, CEO and Director of Netball at London Pulse said “Our vision for London Pulse is to lead the explosive growth of netball for all in London and the South East - connecting with communities and clubs to play, watch and enjoy our sport at all levels. We are committed to finding and developing talented athletes through our performance pathway to the Vitality Netball Superleague and beyond. This collaboration with fellow Elite women’s teams is an exciting step to share best practice, support each other and aid visibility of female sporting icons in our region."

Dave Parry, Director of Sport at the University of Essex, home of the Essex Rebels said “Basketball is the second most popular participation team sport among young people in the country, and the Essex Rebels offer a complete pathway from school engagement, junior club and academy, university scholarship programme, through to senior professional teams. We have always committed to parity of opportunity and investment for our women’s programme. The Women’s Elite Sport Partnership is a very exciting opportunity to amplify our commitment to women’s basketball, with the aim of increasing the strength of our overall programme and the competitiveness of our team”

Danni Warren, Regional Director of Women’s Cricket for Sunrisers, said “Summer of 2020 saw cricket’s inaugural Women’s Elite Domestic Structure competition, with Sunrisers joining seven other regionalised sides to compete for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. Since then, we have signed our first female professional domestic cricketers, with five players joining Sunrisers on a full-time basis. Both events signify the exciting steps being taken by ECB and all partners to drive the elite level of women’s cricket, both on and off the field. At Sunrisers we believe that to accelerate this progress, and to create sustainable programmes and pathways, it is imperative that we learn from our peers and collaborate with those on the same mission as ourselves. The creation of this Women’s Elite Sport Partnership gives us an incredible platform to showcase and develop female athletes across several sports, harnessing our collective desire to provide an opportunity for female sport to thrive over the coming years. All associated with Sunrisers, including our partner counties Essex Cricket and Middlesex Cricket, are really excited to be part of this collective as we move ahead into a busy period for female sport.”

Mark Clark Head Coach, London Lions Women’s said: “The potential of Women’s sport is huge and we see this every day; on and off the court. We understand that reaching this potential cannot be done alone but through a collective effort. Through our involvement in the Women’s Elite Sports Partnership, we know that together we can: increase the visibility, change the stereotypes, inspire the next generation and grow the commercial impact across the whole industry and this is something the London Lions believe in wholeheartedly and are excited to be a part of.”

Note to editors – West Ham United women’s team joined the Women’s Super League, the top league in England, in May 2018. Ahead of the 2020/21 season, the team moved to their state-of-the-art training base at the Academy of Football, the club’s iconic Chadwell Heath training ground. The facility, now amongst the most modern and advanced in the women’s top division, was redeveloped as part of the Board’s wider strategy around growth and development of the women’s team.

The Sunrisers was formed as one of eight regional hubs competing in the new Women’s Elite Domestic Structure, which covers the region of the three first-class counties of Middlesex, Essex and Northamptonshire, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), and the national counties of Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire.

The new structure, which was unveiled in October 2019, forms part of the ECB’s ten-point action plan for Transforming Women’s and Girls’ Cricket. The Sunrisers Senior team who compete in the ECB Women’s Elite Domestic Competition, are a team featuring the best players from across the region and country. In addition, the Sunrisers structure will deliver a performance programme at Academy and Emerging Player level, aimed at developing the breadth of talent across the region.

Essex Rebels joined the Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL), the top and professional tier of women’s basketball in the U.K. in September 2018. Based at the University of Essex, the team play out of the Essex Sport Arena, a £12M, 1655-seat facility which opened in January 2018. The University of Essex, named Times ‘University of the Year’ in 2019, offers sports scholarships at both undergraduate level and post-graduate level. A Sport England TASS dual-career accredited site, and the Basketball England East Region Talent Hub, the University also offers a comprehensive package of support services and cutting-edge facilities including sports science testing and advice, performance analysis, sports psychology, strength and conditioning, physiotherapy and lifestyle advice.

The University of East London (UEL) is ranked no.1 in the UK for reducing inequality and 2nd for driving gender equality in education. It offers a sector leading sports scholarships programme for undergraduate and postgraduate student athletes and is one of the first universities to achieved dual career accreditation with Sport England TASS. UEL’s £20 million SportsDock facility is truly world class and played host to TeamUSA for the 2012 Olympic games. The university boasts existing partnerships with many of the elite women’s sporting organisations involved in this project including West Ham, Essex County Cricket and the London Lions, with London Lions based at SportsDock and a host of athletes from these organisations studying at the university.

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