DURHAM WILDCATS have been forced to withdraw from the British Basketball League after the UK Border Agency ruled that overseas students were not permitted to appear in the competition.

Having joined the BBL in 2011, the Wildcats, who play the majority of their home games at Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre, had built their squad around largely North American students, who were able to play competitively while also studying at Durham University.

However, a recent ruling from the Border Agency means that students on tier four (student) visas are no longer allowed to play in the BBL as it is regarded as a professional competition.

As a result, Wildcats officials have pulled out of next season’s competition in the hope of restructuring their club before reapplying to join the BBL sometime in the future.

A club statement said: “Unfortunately, the recent clarifications from the Border Agency have resulted in our model no longer providing us with the base from which to recruit a competitive team and, with that in mind, it was felt that it was in the interests of both the club and the BBL for the Durham Wildcats to withdraw from the league for the 2015-16 season.

“We are committed to using the next six months to build a structure that will enable us to successfully regain entry into the league. Inevitably, there will need to be a far greater commercial focus to our model, and we would welcome any expressions of support from interested parties.”

The club will hold a series of information events in Newton Aycliffe during the summer, and intend to continue developing their successful junior sides in partnership with Durham County Council.

The statement said: “We remain committed to developing a competitive and sustainable model and, whilst this is quite clearly a huge setback for everyone involved, we are determined to ensure that the club re-emerges as a competitive force.”