NBL Basketball beyond a joke

Australia’s National Basketball League has become a joke. Now the Cairns Tiapans have gone into voluntary administration.

They join the Brisbane Bullets, Singapore Slingers and Sydney Kings in bowing out of the NBL this year alone. The Sydney Spirit (formerly the West Sydney Razorbacks) remain only because the NBL could not afford to allow the only Sydney team to stop playing mid season. To make this happen their players, coaches and staff reportedly took a 50% pay cut.

I have a complete set of 1995 limited edition NBL Car Collectibles (New in Box! – yes I’m that much of a geek). 10 of 14 clubs from 1995 are now defunct. Anybody remember: Canberra Cannons, Geelong Supercats, Gold Coast Rollers, Hobart Tassie Devils, South East Melbourne Magic, Newcastle Falcons or North Melbourne Giants? The Kings and Bullets were there too. Townsville were the Suns and not the Crocodiles (a pox on the Pheonix Suns for the trademark dispute). So only four of 14 clubs from 1995 are still around 13 years later, congratulations to Melbourne Tigers, Perth Wildcats, Adelaide 36ers and Illawarra Hawks – hat tip NLB stats.

The Taipans press release blames the international economic crisis for forcing Pacific Toyota to focus on core business and “no longer financially prop up the Cairns Tiapans”. Unfortunately Pacific Toyota’s executive chairman John O’Brien is also Cairns Taipans majority owner. So it sounds like another case of the sports team relying on the success or failure of the owners’ outside business to fund the team as a side venture. We’ve seen this happen with the Kings and the Bullets this year.

When a basketball club is run as a business in its own right, sponsorship deals are at arms length, cover the entire season, prepaid and enforceable. If the league cannot generate sufficient revenue to cover expenses the entire league is no better than an expensive exhibition tournament. Clubs then have sponsorship, merchandising and ticket sales targets to meet their projected expenses. Given the commercial changes occurring next year – possibly requiring a $1million bond for every team, it is not surprising that nobody is interested in keeping a team on life support in such an uncertain time. Why throw away money on a franchise that may not be around next year.

Lastly this season is a huge failure in sports marketing and sports administration. My initial reaction is the merger between Basketball Australia and the NBL is a bad idea. The elite professional game is about sports entertainment. BA’s concerns are sports development and grass roots. These two outcomes are complimentary but often in conflict.

I am currently reading the Australian Basketball Review Stage Two Report and will comment in more detail later. But I want to get this up now.

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