During each week of the 2019/20 Premier League season, England Netball will shine a light on one of the 30 clubs involved in the competition.
This week, we spoke to BSV Billericay of Premier League 3 after a hugely productive period on and off the court…
BSV Billericay Factfile:
Position: 7th – Premier League 3
Coach: Kate Humphreys
Captain: Lyndsey Barrett
Venue: Basildon Sporting Village
Key Players: Emily Allen, Gemma Cosentino and Phoebe Wickham
Last Six Games: DWDLWL
Last Game: BSV Billericay 37-66 Exeter
Next Game: Eclipse (A) – Sunday 27 October
When BSV Billericay won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 2016, they entered the competition as arguably the smallest club in all three divisions.
At their smallest, the Essex outfit had just 32 players on their books and still had less than 50 members before the start of last season.
Compared to their competitors, some of whom have hundreds of members, the modest size of BSV Billericay and their lofty position certainly provokes interest.
The club have surpassed all expectations in the last few years to become one of the 30 elite clubs in the netball pyramid.
They have not been there to make up the numbers either and achieved survival in each of their three seasons in the third division – finishing sixth, fourth and seventh respectively.
While they have secured their Premier League status in the latter stages of each season – in their penultimate match in 2018 and on a dramatic final day earlier this year – this achievement cannot be underestimated.
Their rise to prominence has been a long time coming, taking four consecutive play-off weekends to finally escape the regional leagues.
Under head coach Kate Humphreys and with a small, dedicated group of volunteers at the helm, the club are now looking to make this success sustainable and are doing so as one of the most forward-thinking sides in the competition.
Previously known as Billericay Netball Club, they have now become the only Premier League team with a naming sponsor for the 2019/20 campaign.
This method of generating income has been seen before, notably Weston Park Blades’ spell as Viper 10 Blades last term, but it shows significant innovation by a small club doing their utmost to grow.
Their partnership with Basildon Sporting Village provides them with financial remuneration, free venue hire and a gateway to increase spectators; their attendance has increased from five to 50 this season.
This, alongside their matchday sponsors, is already providing notable benefits and club captain Lyndsey Barrett hopes that it can continue to help the club thrive moving forward.
“The sponsorship is absolutely brilliant. They have completely embraced the club and what we’re trying to do. We’ve been able to have a set-up where we can work on attendances, promote what we’re doing and gain financial support,” said Barrett, who has been at the club as a player for three decades.
“I would hope that people are looking to sponsor us because of the ethos of the club. This is very much a celebration of the sport and the benefits of being part of it. People see that there is something for everybody at the club.” – Lyndsey Barrett.
BSV Billericay are hoping that these sponsorships can help the club expand and develop their impact on the local community. Their work in the Essex area was an attribute that heavily attracted the venue when deciding to sponsor the club.
Barrett herself works as an Occupational Therapist for her company Sport for Confidence which provide inclusive sporting opportunities to people who face barriers to participation.
The former England youth international, who had to put her own netball career on hold after falling ill at university, therefore understands the benefits that sport and specifically netball can provide. Her club has been appropriately progressive off the court.
“They were happy to sponsor us thanks to our community focus and our attempts to showcase why we love the sport so much. That’s how they came on board,” she explained.
“We’re quite heavily involved in different programmes that focus on physical and mental health. We deliver for Netball for Confidence sessions for adults with learning disabilities, young people with autism and people with dementia. That all takes place at Basildon Sporting Village.
“We’re a real community club. We are trying to raise the profile of netball and the effect physical activity can have on physical and mental health. Netball is not just for elite athletes but for the entire community.”
This innovative approach has been implemented as part of a long-term strategy to help the club grow. In her most recent ‘club captain’s report’, Barrett identified that the club needed to ‘increase the number of players, generate more income and establish clear roles within the club’.
It would perhaps be forgivable to allow on-court performances to slip while the club begin to tackle bigger, overarching tasks. On the contrary, BSV Billericay are enjoying one of their most prosperous periods in their 50-year history.
Three years ago, the team were able to secure their place in Premier League 3 in their fourth attempt at the play-offs. They beat Dudley Leisure Netball Club in May 2016 and have remained in the division ever since.
“Personally, yes [I do think we are over-achieving]. I do think we surprise people,” said Barrett.
“There is such a core group of very passionate people who love the sport and are constantly driving to get more people involved so we can continue to grow. We often find ourselves being the underdogs in situations and coming out on top. That is testament to how hard people work on court and behind the scenes as well.”
Their time in the competition so far hasn’t been without drama. This includes gaining a crucial bonus point against runaway champions Sussex Thunder and a winner-takes-all clash with Hertford Hornets on the final day of last season.
The aim for this season will once again be survival but Barrett, alongside Humphreys, is keen to see young talent be brought through into the first team to join the likes of former Surrey Storm shooter Gemma Cosentino.
There was evidence of this in the recent defeat to Exeter when Barrett’s own teenage daughter made her Premier League debut.
Their pathway has already produced the likes of Barrett herself and Vitality Netball Superleague star Mikki Austin.
“The main strength of our team is the experience we have. We’re really trying to balance that combination of youth and experience. When we get that balance right, that’s when we seem to perform at our best,” she said.
“We’re trying to develop a better pathway to get young players into the Premier League squad. It’s the number one priority for Kate, who helped push for me to make the team when I was younger.
“My own daughter had her debut at Premier League level last weekend which was fantastic to see her at 17 playing in my division. It just shows that the systems we put in place are starting to work and young players are getting court time.”
This close-knit club have been getting this balance correct so far this season with one win, one draw and two defeats to their name.
With all of last season’s bottom three suffering relegation in the play-offs, Barrett understands the importance of putting sizeable distance between themselves and the bottom of the table.
They face newly-promoted Eclipse on Sunday 27 October and know they will have to be at their best if they wish to get something out of the game.
“We’ve been training hard for our next game away at Eclipse and we know what we have to do to bring out our strengths. We’ve got a strong squad available which isn’t always the case for away games.
“Premier League 3 is so tough. Every single team that you come up against is going to be tough and are going to make it a tough game,” she said. “With the Premier League, it does feel like it is the best of the best. You have to work hard to earn a place and you have to hold onto it very tightly. We just have to keep on working hard.”
BSV Billericay are making great strides on and off the court to ensure they maintain their success and retain their inclusivity. Due to their Premier League results and ground-breaking programmes, they appear to be on the right course to do so.
Fixtures and Current Standings: