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  Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK
BBL duo opt for change
Scottish Rocks star Ted Berry
The Rocks' Ted Berry will be in action at Braehead

Two British Basketball League sides are hoping that a change of name brings a change in fortunes for the coming campaign which begins this weekend.

The London Leopards are now the Essex Leopards, reflecting their Brentwood base.

More dramatically, the Edinburgh Rocks have relocated in Glasgow and been rechristened the Scottish Rocks.

Leopards managing director Annie-T Simons admits that changing the club's name was just a matter of time.

The team settled in the Brentwood Centre in 1999 after five years at the London Arena.

"The change of name was inevitable but we had to get a few things in place with support from various quarters, including Essex County Council, before we were in a position to change," she said.

"Maybe it took time for people to realise our value within the county.

"Although about 90 per cent of our support comes from Essex, we still have fans from London, Cambridge, Hertfordshire and Kent coming to our games.

Essex Leopards' Rod Brown
Rod Brown is back with the Leopards for the new season

"We get between 1,000 and 1,100 supporters at our games in a venue which holds about 1,200, and one of my aims for the season is to fill the arena for every home game.

"We are one of the few professional sports teams in the county so there is great potential for us to tap into.

"Essex has more registered players than any other county and we also have a huge schools programme in place to raise our profile," she added.

But where the Leopards are building on an established base, the Scottish Rocks have a more difficult job on their hands.

The Rocks, who joined the BBL in 1998, have moved just over 50 miles down the road from Edinburgh to Glasgow.

Their new home is the state-of-the art Braehead Arena, a 4,000 capacity venue on the outskirts of the city and located within the Braehead Shopping Centre.

Although some people will see the move as a betrayal of their loyal fans, Rocks director Ian Reid believes it is the start of a new era for the league's newest franchise.

"Braehead is simply the best arena in Britain for basketball so it is obviously attractive for us. The option was far too good to discount," he said.

"The shopping mall attracts over 380,000 visitors per week with similar demographics to the sport itself.

European dreams

"We hope that by playing at the arena we will attract larger audiences and success will follow.

"The arena is also suitable for European basketball which is our ultimate ambition," he said.

The Rocks join ice hockey Superleague outfit Scottish Eagles at the venue.

But despite the move, Ian Reid is hopeful that many of those who supported the team last year will make the journey to Braehead.

"We provided a bus to take fans who followed us at Meadowbank to come and have a look here.

"We've had a lot of positive feedback from the fans and I fully expect them to be back to continue their support for the coming season."

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 ON THIS STORY
Scottish Rocks director Ian Reid
"The option to move to Braehead was far too good to discount"
Essex Leopards managing director Annie-T Simons
"The name change was inevitable, I suppose"
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