There's a bit of screwed if you do, screwed if you don't about all this.
If you consider the external factors of the past vs now: there's a glut of sports with A-League a hell of a lot more popular than the failed NSL, the rise of AFLW and Big Bash League (men & women).
That is a substantial increase in market competition for your average Joe's hip pocket money, sponsorship dollar and the crucial government dime (read: infrastructure and grass roots funding).
Then there's the globalisation aspect of competing to keep talent on shore v richer Euro clubs - Australia's 26 million population and general GDP is a drop in the ocean compared to greater Europe.
One key advantage the NBL has at the moment is that it is operating more like a business, it is more flexible, nimble and transactional. This allows it to make decisions with huge upside.
The obvious disadvantage occurs if you are a stakeholder (club), you are subject to changing goal posts, conflict of interest and the like.
How this all relates to the Hawks and the cap situation is the question for the moment while we are in that "be nimble phase" probably should be less of "is this what the structure was meant to be" and more of "is this the structure that is right for the league?"
I think LK has done a fair bit for the Hawks, Adelaide etc. Adelaide have had good squads in the recent years under LK, Hawks have a damn good one this year IMO.
However, I do have to agree, a system where half the teams who are the "haves" force the "have nots" to delve into their finances to meet the league requirements is a problem. The tax distribution probably needs to be less of a "pool" for general use/approval and straight into the poorer clubs as matter of system. That might make for a more stable player cap system.
The issue with saying "clubs need to get it together themselves", is #1 If you want to be brutal about it, then Hawks/36ers etc can die and there will be a 4 team league that would lose credibility very quickly; #2 the market in Melbourne is substantially different to the market in Cairns, Illawarra etc.
In respect of that, consider factors:
- Infrastructure in place (You can't move into better digs/better located spots if they don't exist - they did for Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide - none of these clubs paid for a stadium themselves)
- Population (Larger market potentially for members)
- Competition in city with other sports clubs/leagues
- Business driven city (Mel/Syd more business driven than Adelaide for instance, Perth while not broadly a business driven city, have the major resource firms spending up big in Perth including to the local sports sides)
- Government funding (This is determined based on local gov policy/gov of the day, influence of local politicians federally, interaction between local and federal govs etc)
In a simplified formula, i'd argue if we want to spend the amount we are on the talent that is in the league either you can 1) have a 4 team league, or 2) spend a fair bit of $$$ to lift up the other 4 teams. At the end of the day, those factors at the moment present an environment where "getting their shit together" won't assist the bottom 4 clubs in reaching a competitive financial & infrastructure level of the top 4 to be sustainable/survive.