The Sydney Kings have been expelled from the National Basketball League just a few months after losing the playoffs for the title to the Melbourne Tigers. How can a team that has been so successful over the last five or so years, winning three championships and coming runner up last year, go bankrupt and now cease to exist? How can a successful team in Australia’s biggest city go down the tubes so quickly? I don’t understand all this, but the NBL looks to be in a lot of strife, with the Brisbane Bullets, champions two years ago, also looking to be in trouble.
A dozen years ago the NBL was at the peak of its popularity but it has since really struggled, losing free to air television coverage and sponsorship. I think that the reason why things have gone so badly has been the move from a winter season to a summer season. This was done so as to avoid a clash with AFL football, but it has not been a very popular move. In Melbourne we have had lots of teams disappear and the new South East Dragons have been struggling to gain any popularity. Fortunately the Tigers remain strong.
I stopped following the NBL a few years ago when the North Melbourne Giants were taken over by the South East Melbourne Magic to form the Melbourne Titans. The Titans were supposed to be the strongest team in the league and it did win a couple of championships, but Giants fans felt alienated and never supported the new team. I don’t even think that Magic fans supported the Titans either. I think that they got fed up with their club constantly taking over or merging with other teams, since the Magic was originally made up of the Eastside Melbourne Spectres and the Southern Melbourne Saints. I think that the Magic taking over the Giants, who were their great rivals, was perhaps the final straw for supporters of both of the clubs.
Other moves by the NBL don’t seem to have worked either. I don’t know why they want to expand into New Zealand or Singapore when they cannot even sustain a team in Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra (the Canberra Canons who won many titles in the 80s and 90s disappeared many years ago!). If you have successful teams like the Kings, Bullets, Canons and Titans disappearing despite winning titles, what hope is there for less successful teams?
If I was in charge of the NBL I would have a complete restructure of the league similar to the way that the A-League soccer did a few years ago. I would include twelve teams into the league, with teams from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide (the 36ers), Melbourne (Tigers), Perth (Wildcats), Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast (Taipans), Newcastle, Hobart, Geelong (the Dragons could relocate here), Darwin (the Crocodiles could relocate here) and Canberra. This way the strong clubs will remain and there will be teams in all of the major regions of Australia.
Games could be alternated between some cities. The Sunshine Coast team could alternate home games between Cairns and Townsville. The Geelong team could play home games in Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat. The Hobart team could play games in Hobart and Launceston, while the Darwin team could play in both Darwin and Alice Springs. (If they really want to play games overseas, the Darwin team could play a few home games in Singapore or the Hobart team could play a few games in New Zealand.) The Canberra team could play games in Canberra, Illawarra and in Wollongong. Taking games to regional centres could help to establish the game in those areas. Big sporting events never come to many of these towns so this could help to renew the NBL’s popularity. It can’t hurt!