ASIAN EXPANSION NBL'S NEXT FRONTIER?
There is non-stop talk about where the next NBL club will be in Australia — but what about an international team joining the national league?
The Gold Coast hosted the NBL Blitz and is seen as a strong contender, NBL boss David Stevenson was in Darwin recently to explore options there, a second Sydney team continues to firm and there are parties interested in almost every state and territory.
But could the next club be outside Australia?
It’s no secret league owner Larry Kestelman and Co are doing everything they can to crack the lucrative Asian market and, while it’s probably a long shot that the next club is offshore, Crosscourt can reveal the NBL has entered discussions with parties in at least three different countries — Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The Singapore Slingers came and went quickly in the mid-2000s.
It’s the first tangible indicator the NBL is deadly serious about taking the league global and, while Stevenson would not be drawn on the sensitive discussions, he confirmed Asia was the "logical international destination" due to its favourable time zone, travel distance and interest in the sport.
Large parts of Stevenson’s 17 years working with global giant Nike involved postings in Asia, including Hong Kong and China, giving him an intimate knowledge of the market.
“Having spent a lot of time living there, I’ve experienced it first hand that Australian basketball is viewed very highly across Asia, both in terms of the quality of the NBL league but also Australian players and coaches and high performance people, given the success of the Boomers and the Opals.
“We’ve got an aspirational position within basketball in Asia.
“We don’t want to rush into this — we did see the (Singapore) Slingers come and go pretty quickly (2006-08) so we want to make sure that, if this does progress, then it’s going to be a strong and sustainable model that has a long term home.
“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge, given there’s a lot of complexity around how we would do that but what we do know is if you crack that code (in Asia), the opportunities are pretty sizeable.
“We’re having some active conversations and we’ll see how that plays out.”
Kestelman wants the 10-team league to grow to 12 by 2026, with parties from Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle, Townsville and Darwin expressing interest in securing a licence.
But Stevenson cautioned the league won’t “expand for expansion’s sake”.
“We see a great opportunity and it’s not just in one place, we can certainly see an expansion agenda that would see multiple cities over the coming years,” he said.
“But we’ve got to have three boxes checked and that’s fan interest, strong corporate support and then government support, particularly from a facilities perspective, both playing and training.
“Until you get those three boxes ticked then these conversations remain ongoing.
“It might take us a bit longer to expand but we want to make sure that, when we do put a team in, it’s going to be strong and successful from day one.”
From the Herald Sun.