Surrey United 2 SPORTS

Surrey United Basketball Team (formerly Guildford Heat, Surrey Heat)

Surrey United is a basketball team who use the London United Academy at Harefield for training and development, but play all their home games at Surrey Sports Park in Guildford. Surrey United previously played as Surrey Heat last season in the British Basketball League, but London United and Surrey Sports Park were successful in a takeover bid in September 2013 which now means they jointly run the club.

In 2005 the Guildford Heat franchise was formed as by fans of former BBL team Thames Valley Tigers, who had unfortunately had to disband earlier that year. The ‘Heat’ enjoyed plenty of success in their early history, appearing in the ULEB Cup in 2007 (the second tier European basketball league). They fell on hard times in the last few years and so in the 2012-2013 season the franchise was rebranded as the Surrey Heat, playing its home games at the Surrey Sports Park after changing over from the Guildford Spectrum facilities.

Back in 1975, the Guildford Pirates became the first local team in the Guildford area and would come back to figure prominently in the birth of the new Guildford Heat club. In 1982, the Pirates moved to Bracknell, becoming the Bracknell Pirates and then later changed its name to the Thames Valley Tigers. For years, the Tigers were one of the front runners of the British basketball scene, winning the league Championship in 1994. However, at the turn of the millennium that success seemed to dry up for owner John Nike and in April 2005, he announced that he would no longer be funding the basketball franchise nor his ice hockey franchise the Bracknell Bees (who the Guildford Flames play on the opening weekend of the new season).

The team was too much of a financial burden, but still had a strong fan base and so a consortium of Tigers fans formed with the idea of saving the club. Local businessman Mike Davies headed up the consortium and together they came up with a viable package to take over the administration and running of the team. Unfortunately, they failed to reach an agreement with Nike in time for the 2005-2006 season. The deadline for entry into the British Basketball League was reached, and thus the Tigers’ BBL membership lapsed. Gladly, the fans managed to obtain permission from the League to enter a new team in its place and the Guildford Heat franchise was born after successful negotiations with the Spectrum Leisure Centre in Guildford were completed.

Last season the newly named Surrey Heat managed a respectable fourth in the league, reaching the quarter-finals in both the Trophy and the Cup and the semi-finals in the play-offs. The new season will commence in September and run through till May next year, featuring 13 teams competing for the crown in the league’s 27th year.

New owners sacked previous managed Creon Roftopoulos before the season began as part of the takeover plans, but Jack Majewski of London United said “This project will be long-term and supply Surrey with sustainable basketball with a young team, and it will only grow. I think the project is absolutely limitless and there are so many factors which can make us very successful… we can create something which is very sustainable”

Good luck to Surrey United for the upcoming season!

James Martin