Everton Tigers are no more.
Introducing, the Mersey Tigers. Liverpool's BBL club are to get a makeover next term after breaking their three-year association with their local Premiership club after the Blues confirmed they are to end their financial support. And they will be under new ownership after the team's former chairman, Gary Townsend, confirmed his return after a spell with Notts County.
“We’ve had significant support from Everton since the club was launched but now the time has come to start a new, exciting era,” Townsend said.
“We may be losing our association with Everton but this name change opens the club up to the other half of the city. I’m sure the fact we were so closely aligned with the football club put some off on the red side of the city. But this is a sport for everyone and hopefully being Mersey Tigers will enable us to attract even more supporters.
“Financially, I’m confident we can secure the future by increasing our sponsorship revenues, and I am hoping to announce our new sponsors and partners very soon. Of course, I’d be really happy to speak to any other interested parties.”
Townsend, who boasts a wealth of sporting experience having worked at Manchester United for seven years and five years at Goodison, has big plans for the future.
“There is so much potential,” he added. “We’ve already had 5,000 fans at the Echo Arena for a game and with the club never having had a full-time chief executive driving things forward off the court, this potential has not been fully developed.
“This sport is great family entertainment and I’ve never heard anyone who has come to a game say a bad word about it. The challenge is getting people through the doors.
“I really believe in this and I know what we’re capable of achieving.
Martyn Best has stepped down as Tigers chairman but backed the new team in charge.
“Having the Everton brand gave the Tigers credibility from day one and they quickly proved themselves to be a real force in British basketball and now I can see that they are ready to go it alone,” Best said.
“The Tigers have gone from nothing to the second most successful basketball team in the country in three years.
“After Gary left I and others helped carry the club through last season and it was great to add the BBL Play-Off trophy to the BBL Cup we won the year before.
“It’s a massive boost to have Gary back and with his wealth of experience I’m sure the club will go from strength to strength and I wish them well.”
Coach Tony Garbelotto will remain at the helm but Townsend faces a hectic few weeks signing up players for next season. None of last year’s crop are under contract and American duo Kevin Bell and Jerome Gumbs are unlikely to return, although Garbelotto has had talks with some of last season’s favourites as well as Great Britain captain Drew Sullivan.
And Townsend said: “We have made some exciting progress on all fronts, and we will have some good news for all our fans over the next few weeks, and I’m looking forward to a very exciting future for the new Mersey Tigers.”