All of the NBL teams from last season have put their hands up to join the competition, with the exception of the two Melbourne teams and the now defunct Sydney Spirit. The new group currently in negotiation with Adelaide’s Mal Hemmerling for the acquisition of the 36ers have also indicated their desire to compete. The seven are the Adelaide 36ers, Cairns Taipans, Gold Coast Blaze, New Zealand Breakers, Perth Wildcats, Townsville Crocodiles and Wollongong Hawks.
BA Chief Executive Officer Larry Sengstock said the decision by the Melbourne Tigers and South Dragons not to participate in the competition was disappointing but that moves were already underway to look at maintaining a Melbourne presence in the competition through an alternate team and that a Sydney and Brisbane presence was planned to be brought into the league in 2010.
“We are pleased that, with the exception of the two Melbourne sides, we have received a vote of support for the competition from all the other seven teams and will meet with their representatives in Melbourne tomorrow to hammer out the details of the competition structure for 2009/10,” said Sengstock. “We have initiated discussions with a number of established Melbourne groups aimed at maintaining a Victorian presence in the league, which could see them included in the 2009/10 season.
“Given Victoria’s rich basketball heritage and massive participation base, the Dragons and Tigers are not necessarily the only options open to us in that market. Those two teams also need to understand that by choosing to opt out of the league, they have absolutely no guarantees of ever rejoining the competition.
“Irrespective of whether it is this season or next, we will introduce teams from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane into the competition by 2010,” Sengstock added.
In May 2007 BA and the NBL, with the support of the Australian Sports Commission, initiated an extensive two-stage independent review which determined that there was a need to replace the current NBL with a new competition that had true national representation, followed a more financially viable model and had firm connections to the grass roots of the sport.
In accordance with the review findings, Expressions of Interest from teams interested in participating in the new league were called for. Eleven initial indications of interest were received, with nine formal applications to be part of the new competition submitted. However, no applicants signed the license agreements by the 23 April deadline.
The EOI produced nine formal responses - from all the current NBL clubs minus the Sydney Spirit. A Brisbane consortium backed by the State Association also provided a response for a 2010 start and a Sydney consortium expressed verbal interest but could not submit in the timeframe outlined for an October 2009 start. However of the original EOIs, only one was fully compliant with the new criteria which had been previously agreed to by the NBL owners. This made it necessary to enter a significant period of negotiation and discussion with the respondents to ensure that they all were able to satisfy the Board as to their long-term viability. This slowed down the reform rollout and delayed the announcement of teams, but was a vital step in an open process.
“We have a clear direction for basketball in Australia,” Sengstock added. “We need to take the hard decisions to return all aspects of basketball to their rightful place. We remain committed to moving to a truly national new competition which has representation in each of the five mainland state capital cities and New Zealand comprised of financially viable teams in a sustainable competition that is intrinsically linked to the grass roots of the sport.
“By playing the 2009/10 season, we can maintain a presence in the marketplace, continue to provide employment for our elite players, coaches and referees and set the foundation for a truly national competition to start in 2010.”
More information on the new league will be made available in due course.