The London Lions have made former Chicago Bulls scout Vanja Cernivec the first female general manager in WBBL history.
Cernivec takes up her post as the new general manager of the Lions women’s team and the Global Director of the Lions academy.
She arrives having previously made history as the NBA’s first female international scout with the Bulls.
The Lions women recently produced an unbeaten WBBL season in which they achieved a domestic clean sweep by clinching the WBBL Play-Offs, Cup, Trophy and Championship.
“When I accepted this role for the Lions, I was so happy to see the success they had last season and it also made me think what we need to do to improve the league in general,” said Cernivec.
“It was mainly the vision and the ambition of 777 for the London Lions and women’s basketball in the UK that influenced my decision. It will take a team effort and we will need to find a way to popularise the sport and at the same time be patient to allow slow and organic growth. I see the Lions playing a crucial role as front runners and the initiators in developing and implementing this long-term strategy.
“Hopefully in two or three years we will be competing in the EuroLeague. As an organisation we will need to be ready when we recruit high-profile players and put them in the right system to allow them to flourish. This means investing in coaches and other staff that are usually overlooked, which is something I’m going to focus on as well.
“I hope that with time we can attract the best players in the world to compete for the Lions and with that help inspire even more young athletes to pick up basketball.
“I think it will be crucial for our team to be able to identify and recruit foreign as well as the best UK talent. In this process we should also focus on helping other WBBL teams to raise their talent level and spark the growth of the WBBL as well.
“I looked at the list of the girls who are playing in the NCAA divisions, and I was surprised at the high number of British players competing in the US. We need to develop relationships with those players and create an environment for them to come back after they graduate.
“I’m not saying bring them back to the London Lions, I’m saying bring them back to the WBBL so that all teams can enjoy their success and growth.”
The announcement comes after a study conducted by the Lions organization showed that 44 per cent of females are not made aware of career opportunities in sport beyond playing, while a further 41 per cent said there are not enough role models in sport management to look up to.