Much like it’s greatest ever player, Andrew Gaze above, Australian basketball has been stripped bare. Gone are the glory days of the league when Gaze and his father were household names, leading a league of local products and imports who similarly commanded national attention. The good thing is, at least there is now a conscious acceptance that change needs to occur in order to get back on track. The glory days are over.
The long awaited requirements for entrants to the new (as yet untitled) National Basketball League have been released. This from ABC News:
The new season will start in October this year and will include at least eight clubs, depending on the suitability of the applications.
There will be a $1 million fee for a license to operate a new club, but it will not be imposed on any current NBL team that has not gone into administration.
In addition to the $1 million fee, there will be requirements to maintain $500,000 working capital, provide a sound business plan and fall within the league-imposed salary cap — something that many have doubted the validity of in the past.
Will these impositions affect some of the less financially-backed clubs, possibly those in smaller markets, in their bid to enter the competition? You bet ya. However that is the idea of putting restrictions in place now — to ensure that financially unstable clubs are not around when tip-off time comes in October. The league can not afford to mess this one up. There can not be another Sydney Kings-Firepower scandal. There can not be another “Jason Smith not getting paid” article in the Daily Telegraph.
Even a club storied in NBL history such as the Perth Wildcats have doubts as to their ability to enter the new competition without a struggle. According to WA Today:
Bosses at the Perth Wildcats have warned they will need financial support from both the state government and WA’s corporate sector if they are to take their place in the new NBL.
The Wildcats have relied on the generosity of millionaire Jack Bendat in recent years, but CEO Nick Marvin said this morning that in future, wider support will be needed if the club with four championships and 23 consecutive finals appearances were to continue.
“Today’s Expression of Interest invitation by marks an important step in the reform of the sport as well as the elite men’s competition in the country,” Marvin said.
“Western Australians have made tremendous contributions to the sport globally and the Wildcats play an important part in the development of the sport in our state.
“Our board will meet shortly regarding our application to participate in the new NBL.
“Whilst our club has existed and succeeded thanks to the generosity of our owner Jack Bendat, we will require more corporate and government support in order for us to continue into the future.”
The list of clubs that put forth entries before the 27 February deadline will be interesting. There has been talk of some clubs outside of the current competition looking for entry, including Darwin, Canberra, Hobart and a second New Zealand team.
Media focus tends to centre on soccer’s A-League when discussing the model for the new competition. Basketball Australia’s chief executive Scott Derwin has downplayed this.
Basketball’s plan to re-badge the domestic competition follows soccer’s decision in 2003 to replace the National Soccer League with the A-League and establish mostly new franchises in major centres.
Despite the A-League’s success and looming expansion, Derwin said basketball would not follow their model and would instead be prepared to retain its current teams.
Melbourne Tigers owner, Seamus McPeake has certainly voiced his objections to any A-League comparisons:
McPeake, bemused by the hype surrounding the A-League, suggested the majority of its clubs find themselves in similar dire financial situations to most of the NBL teams.
“People can say what they want about basketball, it’s very annoying for me and other owners to sit and watch a (NBL) game on a Wednesday night with an empty stadium,” he said.
“But how many A-League games do you watch when the stadiums are empty as well? But everyone’s talking about the A-League.”
“Quite honestly, there aren’t too many successful A-League clubs around at the minute, they’re being propped up by the league.”
Regarding the new basketball competition, McPeake said he hoped the kind of ‘idiots’ that had been in charge of doomed NBL teams in the past would stay away, saying: “It’s all about building the business of sport and making every franchise viable.”
Interestingly, there seems to be a push for the Sydney Kings to return, or for there to be no Sydney team at all. The Sportal article cited above even mentioned the possibility of pushing a Sydney team into existance, regardless of whether a bid comes forward. This has long been a rumoured requirement of any deal from Fox Sports.
McPeake was confident that a stable team could be set up in Sydney and if a private bid wasn’t received for a harbour city outfit, BA would aim to appoint someone to run one in the city which saw two clubs enter financial ruin in the space of five months of each other last year.
And while McPeake didn’t see a Brisbane side as a priority, with a team already based on the Gold Coast he didn’t discount the possibility of a team sharing its home matches between the two cities.
In a further boost for the sport, broadcaster Fox Sports will televise every game next season either live or close to live and Melbourne coach Al Westover described that as the key to the growth of Australian basketball.
“The product’s there, it just needs to be seen … it just needs a bit more promotion and awareness, I definitely think the calibre of the teams and the players that we have are tremendous,” he said.
The next couple of months will be interesting.
Of course the Shane Heal farewell tour rolls on and Perth fans will look forward to giving him a big welcome: