The sad news this morning for Sydney basketball fans and Australian hoops supporters in general, is that the Sydney Spirit might be on their way to extinction. It may even come before the season ends. This is terrible news from the perspective that they have been great battlers in the league, displaying a team record beyond their individual capabilities.
You have to feel for Jason Smith, who will be part of his second collapsing team in a year. The fans of Sydney that switched their allegiances across to the Spirit from the Kings will also be feeling befuddled. The reform in Aussie basketball is now needed more than ever.
Here’s what the daily rags had to say on the news:
Sydney is likely to have no presence in the NBL following the crushing announcement that the Spirit are set to go into administration this week.
In another huge blow to the national basketball competition, the Spirit are almost certain to follow the Sydney Kings into extinction as early as this week unless an extremely unlikely saviour comes out of the woodwork.
The development will throw the NBL into turmoil, as they would have to find a way to revamp the schedule midway through the current season.
In a frustratingly similar scenario that led to the Kings folding in the off-season, when the NBL board struggled mightily to keep communication open with former Kings owner Tim Johnston, the league is now having trouble contacting Spirit owner Greg Evans.
“The league office was informed by Sydney Spirit owner Greg Evans on Saturday that the team was in a perilous financial position and has indicated that he was planning to put the team into administration,” chief executive of Basketball Australia Scott Derwin said in a statement.
“We have since been seeking urgent talks with Evans to ascertain what, if anything, can be done either to help him maintain the team in the NBL for the remainder of the season, or to find a buyer for the Spirit’s license who could continue the club’s on-going operations.
“We have also opened up dialogue with a number of individuals who had previously shown an interest in investing in a Sydney-based NBL team with a view to getting them involved in saving the Spirit if at all possible.
“At this stage, it is simply too early to tell if there are grounds for optimism as to the team’s future, but we are facing the very real prospect that they may not be able to see out the remainder of the 2008-09 season.
“We expect to be able to make a further statement on this issue, and how it will impact the other nine teams in the competition, prior to the Spirit’s next scheduled home match against the South Dragons on Saturday night.”
Players are complaining of being kept in the dark about the situation.
The League has asked Evans if there is anything it can do to keep the team in the competition until the end of the season.
Spirit Captain Jason Smith says the players are looking for answers.
“It’s extremely frustrating not to get any answers out of Greg Evans,” he said.
“He’s uncontactable at the moment, won’t answer his phone. So it’s proving to be extremely frustrating from the players’ and management’s point of view.”
The League is also in discussions with potential buyers for the Spirit’s license, and says the situation highlights the need for more strict guidelines for new NBL teams.
The club changed its name from the West Sydney Razorbacks in the off-season in the wake of the collapse of the city’s foundation club the Sydney Kings, hoping to attract fans of the defunct Kings.
But the loss of the Kings hasn’t translated to an off-court boost for the Spirit, who have several times struggled to attract even four-figure crowds to their home matches so far in the 2008-09 season.
Now Basketball Australia chief executive Scott Derwin has admitted in a statement released on Tuesday evening that the 10-team competition could be reduced to nine before the current campaign is over following the information from owner Greg Evans.
The news also comes after good grassroots work done by the Spirit, such as sponsoring the recently concluded Sydney Schools Shootout, which was won by the Kings School.
Here’s hoping that this news does not disrupt the currently running season and that something can be organised to keep the Spirit running through until the finalisation of 2008-09.