Lisa Pearce, Chief Executive of British Wheelchair Basketball, talks about parasports, the new Women’s Premier League and considers whether one could integrate the Paralympic and Olympic Games.
Great Britain is very strong on the global stage of wheelchair basketball. The men’s team are currently the reigning World Champions and European Champions, and the women’s team are the Silver World Medalists and European Silver Medalists. The teams are very excited about the prospects and opportunities at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
In the UK there are around 17,000 people who play wheelchair basketball. And there is a new campaign, called Inspire a Generation, aimed at doubling participation with a strong emphasis on working across communities in the UK, upskilling community leaders to bring wheelchair basketball to their communities, along with developing school packs and resources for teachers so that everyone can get involved no matter where they live.
Interestingly, out of the 17,000 people who play wheelchair basketball, 21% are non-disabled — therefore it’s truly an inclusive sport for all. And, there is demand for another 70,000 new players.
The global audience for the Paralympic Games in Rio was 4.1 billion, which was a 127% increase since 2004 and had coverage in more than 150 countries.
This begs the question, why can’t we create the sort of professional league environment one sees in other sports, like football, cricket, tennis and hockey?
There is a new women’s premier league in the pipeline for wheelchair baseball — a world-first — London Phoenix being the Capital’s franchise. The women will lay the foundation for this over the next three years and then men’s franchises will come in as well.
This is great for communities to come together and, importantly, to increase the visibility of the sport. It helps to challenge people’s perceptions around disability and create an inclusive environment so everyone can thrive. Having an active league with frequent, elite competition is also important for the sport to truly flourish and talent to come to the fore.
The Paralympics is gaining a huge support base and we explore whether there’s scope to integrate the Olympics with the Paralympics. It’s a question on many people’s minds.
About Lisa Pearce
Lisa Pearce is Chief Executive of British Wheelchair Basketball. With over 20 years’ experience in sporting organisations, Lisa can often be found describing her newest role as leading the ‘best kept secret’ in sport. A true advocate of unlocking the power of sport and realising its influence on stakeholders, Lisa is acutely aware of her trusted position as custodian and guardian of the sport.
Commencing her role at British Wheelchair Basketball in May 2018, Lisa is one of the youngest CEO’s in the sector. In her time at British Wheelchair Basketball, Lisa has already negotiated the NGB’s new sponsorship contracts, championed the sport’s innovative rebrand, secured a broadcast partnership with BBC Sport, and launched an ambitious new 5-year strategy for the Sport.
She brings with her an impressive CV of change management, commercialisation and sport participation engagement. Whilst CEO of the London FA Lisa delivered the most diverse and highly skilled board in grassroots football, and at the LTA she lead the Davis Cup legacy offering free tennis to 10,000 new young people.
Her career has seen Lisa work in public, private and third sector organisations, each one centric to her core passion of sport to be able to positively change people’s lives. Her open, enthusiastic, and committed approach to sports leadership, and innate ability to nurture a cohesive organisation and team environment is central to her career success.
Prior to her position as CEO British Wheelchair Basketball, Lisa has held a variety of senior roles in sport including CEO of London FA, Head of Region for the LTA; Director of Sports and Enterprise for the Westway Trust; Director of Sport and Physical Activity for the Sports Aberdeen Charitable Trust and Culture & Sports Services Manager at Reading Borough Council.