Last year

Gold Coast new franchise interest

NBL: Inside story of secret negotiations to resurrect Gold Coast team

Secret negotiations are being held to bring the Gold Coast back into the NBL in a multimillion-dollar move which would dramatically reshape the city's sporting landscape.

Andrew Potts
March 14, 2023 - 6:00AM
Gold Coast Bulletin

SECRET negotiations are being held to bring the Gold Coast back into the NBL, with league bosses meeting both Mayor Tom Tate and at least one consortium.

More than a decade after exiting the competition, the city is at the centre of expansion plans on the back of a surging revival of interest in grassroots basketball.

Mr Tate on Friday night held a courtside meeting at the NBL finals in Sydney with billionaire competition boss Larry Kestelman about the prospect of relaunching a basketball franchise on the Gold Coast.

The Mayor and Mr Kestelman discussed the matter while watching the Sydney Kings defeat the New Zealand Breakers 91-68 at Qudos Bank Arena.

"I have had preliminary discussions with Larry about bringing the NBL to the Gold Coast," Mr Tate said on Monday.

“The number of grassroots players coming through deserve a national team on the Gold Coast. And that’s why I believe it would be well-supported.

“We have a fair way to go, but I welcome their interest in our city and hope we can continue our dialogue.”

It came after Mr Kestelman visited the Gold Coast last week and met at a Broadbeach cafe with a consortium led by entertainment boss Billy Cross.

Mr Cross declined to comment when approached by the Bulletin on Monday but said there was strong interest in basketball on the Gold Coast.

“There is plenty of support for basketball here and just last year the Gold Coast Rollers won the NBL 1 north championship for the first time in more than 30 years,” he said.

The NBL is currently looking at locations for expansion teams on the back of expressions of interest for new franchise licences.

Canberra, another city to have previously held an NBL licence, and the Gold Coast are leading the field of prospective new teams.

At least two franchises are expected to enter the competition between 2024 and 2025.

“I’m completely blown away at the interest,” Mr Kestelman told News Corp in February.

“It’s just great to be in a place where there is such demand and excitement about the NBL.

“A reasonable lead-in time is a year-and-a-half to build a team from the ground up, build the back office and the on-court performance, without rushing it.

“I don’t want more teams for the sake of having more teams if they’re going to be struggling.

“We need to make sure there is support from fans, from business, from government to ensure it is commercially viable and it actually grows the game and the NBL.”

Mr Kestelman’s comments about safeguards around support are valid. A source with knowledge of the inner workings of the NBL told the Bulletin it costs an estimated $8m to $10m to run a team annually.

The Gold Coast has previously been home to two failed NBL franchises.

The Gold Coast Cougars, later renamed the Gold Coast Rollers, entered the competition in 1990 but financially struggled through its six years and never placed higher than eighth.

The Rollers, along with the Hobart Devils and Geelong Supercats, had their licences pulled in 1996.

A new team, the Gold Coast Blaze, which was bankrolled by a consortium that included Mr Tate, played in the NBL between 2007 and 2012 with great success, making three finals appearances.

Mr Tate previously told the Bulletin he was supportive of a new team which would be able to avoid the issues facing previous teams.

“Historically, when we were a much smaller city, we did bite off more than we could chew,” he said in August 2022.

“A huge financial challenge was the cost of setting up the flooring and venue hire at Gold Coast Convention Centre (where the Blaze played their home games).

“It made it so prohibitive that even if we had 2000 people in the stands, we could still not break even, and therefore it wasn’t sustainable.”

The decision sparked immediate debate across Australian basketball when it was first revealed on Monday, further inflamed by comments made by former NBA star Andrew Bogut.

Topic #50984 | Report this topic

Last year

Love the addition at the end!

Reply #913983 | Report this post

Last year

lmao Perthworld

Reply #914001 | Report this post

Last year

Legit lol, nice work Perthwold.

On a serious note, don't think I'd trust a group led by Billy Cross.

Reply #914002 | Report this post

Last year

I was waiting for your comments Ben.

Despite being all the way here in Perth even I know, through coverage in local media, how full of it Gold Coast mayor Tate is.

Not surprised regarding your comments on Cross - navigating his business website I don't think he has the level of wealth required to own a team? Plus he comes across as another character like Tate who is into himself a little too much.

This seems to be self-generated buzz by LK using a couple of stooges to sound out if there is any genuine interest.

Reply #914004 | Report this post

Last year

This seems to be self-generated buzz by LK using a couple of stooges to sound out if there is any genuine interest.

That's what I was thinking. Throw these guys out there to see if something else shakes free.

I'm just wondering when we're going to find out about these secret negotiations...

Reply #914010 | Report this post

Last year

Queensland isnt a basketball loving state. Why would they bother trying to flog a dead horse is beyond me! Bullets crowds as bad enough.

Give Canberra a try.

Reply #914021 | Report this post

Last year

Bullets have often been selling out games this season, and every one has been near capacity at worst. This comes during a season that reached the lowest point in team history.

Support for the game here is fine. Just ownership and management that's dog turd.

Reply #914022 | Report this post

Last year

Bullets crowds were full this season, if the gold coast got the money and desire it's a great idea.

Reply #914024 | Report this post

Last year

One of the reasons crowds and support for GC rugby league and AFL teams is so ordinary is because of where the stadiums are.

Let's hope this stadium they would play at is close to everything. They'd only be competing with occasional Big Bash games which are also badly attended on the GC.

Reply #914164 | Report this post

Last year

I have full faith in LK and JL. They will do their due diligence with the Gold Coast, like they have done with both SE Melbourne and Tassie.

As for Brisbane, the crowds are definitely not the issue, as Ben has already mentioned. The team has majorly underachieved and the fans are still showing up. Imagine the crowd if /when the team makes finals.

Reply #914181 | Report this post

Last year

Nothing works on the Gold Coast doesn't matter what sporting code the history speaks for itself . They would be better off going to one of the larger regional markets like Geelong or Newcastle who actually wants a team as well as a Canberra

Reply #914208 | Report this post

Weedy Slug  
Last year

Those 3 need a stadium, we are talking minimum 4 years if they had plans for the stadium this year.

The only realistic options asap are Canberra ais arena with an overhaul like my state bank, a team could be ready for 25/26 or Gold Coast at the convention centre or Gold Coast leisure centre, capacity 5,000.

Reply #914209 | Report this post

Last year

Gold Coast has never really proven itself to be a good place for a sports team. How's their NRL side doing crowd wise?

Infrastructure and location have a big affect no doubt.

Phoenix approach to a licence was the more classic rich owner gets club. It worked well in this instance because the owner is big in sports, Phoenix are a negligible cost to the owner, they hit the ground running with basketball minds like Greer steering the club. They have a major city as their market base and south east Melbourne is one of the most basketball oriented areas in Australia.

Infrastructure poses no problem with JCA, RLA, MCA covering three nicely sized options for whatever their size happened to be and become. The SBC is a fantastic base where they can also play games. Plus they lucked into having a marquee player available in Creek.

Perfect alignment.

That’s much, much harder to achieve in other places. Even Sydney technically doesn’t have great infra unless they’re playing at the large QBA.

Tasmania was a good play: make sure the market is going to support the club, sort out the infrastructure, get corporates on-side, get government on-side. NBL own it and make sure it’s well operated before selling, with patience to not give it to the wrong people.

This would be a much better approach for any Newcastle/Goldcoast/Canberra/Whatever else sides. Make sure the alignments are there, get it built, then sell to an appropriate owner at the right patient time.

Avoid the risk of a rich owner who gets in way over their head and bails after a few years.

Realistically, we can’t expect a Phoenix situation for other smaller city expansion clubs.

To me then, the best indicator is how the NBL go at divesting whatever they own, including the Jackies. If they can sell to a good consortium and get whatever reasonable return as to have made it worth it, then it’s a good indicator they can move on to other expansion.

What we wouldn’t want, is the NBL having a finger in lots of pies and getting itself in trouble. Do the NBL still have investment in the Bullets? Have they been assisting 36ers, Hawks amongst other clubs financially/resource wise? (Outside that of broadcast payments). Does LK still own part of MU?

So, ideally: divest interests to sound owners > gauge markets, the right infrastructure, right government support > select expansion and own it > build it and sell it to the right owner, patiently if need be.

Rinse & repeat.

If they can’t manage that, then perhaps expansion isn’t ideal yet.

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Last year


The Bullets Ownership Group now have full control over the team as of the end of this past season.

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Last year

Gold Coast is a dead product before it even launchers. GWS crowd today was disappointing given the talent they have.

Reply #914426 | Report this post

Last year

GWS don't represent who they are supposed to, after a few years most people just realised it was just a Melbourne franchise, getting all their instruction from south. Plus Olympic park is no where near western Sydney, they spent about a season out there training at Blacktown, a long way from where the players wanted to live. You sow what you reap.

Reply #914427 | Report this post

Last year

Where exactly does Western Sydney start then?

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Last year

Parramatta going west.

Reply #914446 | Report this post

Dave Marshall  
Last year

The problem with the "GWS should play further west" argument is that it would have cost hundreds of millions to either bring Blacktown up to par or build a completely new stadium elsewhere, while the Sydney Showground was sitting there unused for 51 weeks of the year and only required a $60 million injection to bring it up to AFL standard.

I've also heard from a few people that some in the Sydney AFL community don't entirely trust GWS to not pack up and move to Canberra full-time. Again, that's commercial realities getting in the way, because they have a lucrative deal with the ACT government to play games at Manuka. It's the same with South Sydney, who also play at Homebush when there's a perfectly good stadium two suburbs away from their traditional home base, because Homebush gave them a better deal.

(The 36 degree weather yesterday probably didn't help either...)

Bringing it back to the Gold Coast, the Suns had a healthy crowd by their standards this week, about the same size as the Titans earlier in the day, so that's encouraging for the prospect of a new NBL franchise. Much will depend on what sort of deal they can get on venue rental, be it the Convention Centre or the smaller venue that was built for the Commonwealth Games.

Reply #914454 | Report this post

Last year

"Where exactly does Western Sydney start then?"

Depends where you live, I remember working with someone from the eastern suburbs that reckoned Western Sydney started at Newtown, but he was a dickhead, so yeah, from Parra...

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Reply #920460 | Report this post

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Already discussed in a previous thread

Reply #920470 | Report this post

Last year

The GC will lap up the pr blitz.

But no, the GC is where sporting teams come to die. 2 NBL franchises dead. A League soccer team dead. NRL team on life support. AFL team only surviving due to AFL support, and just sacked their most successful ever coach who is a real footy person.

The A League team folding had a lot to do with a billionaire owner just wanting the attention and fame it sort of gave him, but didn't care enough about his city, team or sport enough to open up more seats. They would sell out the allocated seats, but he wouldn’t pay the extra money to open more seating. That was at the same venue that league used, with around 17 000 capacity, so they could have developed to have the capacity to have some of the biggest A League crowds. Just looking at the owner, he doesn’t actually look at all like a sportsman, except maybe darts.

Too many Professional sports players who move to the GC seem to only be interested in the party lifestyle, that might put investors off. Just think: the GC was Jarryd Hayne’s last pro footy gig in Australia. I doubt that anyone else wanted him (there were already rumours about legal issues when he was signed) but the Titans still paid overs.

The GC would be my closest franchise if they ever started up again, but I just think that at this stage, the NBL needs to stabilise and grow slowly in lower risk ventures with ongoing local owner and sponsor support. The GC just doesn’t have that, and has never had that for any of their pro sports franchises.

Tom Tate is always looking for pr, so he will always be available to talk up any possible development for his city. But not everyone is pro Tate, there are people who are dead against him. Mayor Tom Tate is very closely involved with GC property development and real estate. These industries are synonymous with boom-bust economic cycles, nowhere more so than on the GC.

One thing that the NBL does need in all future expansion is a solid business base in host communities. The biggest employer on the GC is the GC Council, by a long way. I think Geelong would also struggle, because where are the local businesses big enough to support a franchise? Ford is closely tied to the AFL Cats, and their local footprint is shrinking.

Tasmania was a special case for expansion, because LK was so highly motivated to use his own money to gain the opportunity to develop the precinct around the venue.

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