The NBL is continuing to progress with its much-discussed expansion plans and there will definitely be a team in Brisbane for the 2016-17 season, according to the league’s General Manager, Jeremy Loeliger.
Speaking to Downtown yesterday, Loeliger was emphatic about the league’s plans to re-establish a presence in South East Queensland.
“One way or another, by hook or by crook, there will be a Brisbane team in 2016-17,” Loeliger told Downtown.
Such a strong, positive message will come as music to the ears of basketball fans in Brissy but it will be danced to with caution. They have, of course, heard it before, with former NBL CEO Fraser Neill making a similar statement twelve months ago about the 2015-16 season.
Those plans fell through earlier this year when the league decided that a venue of the appropriate standard to accommodate an NBL team was not available.
Nonetheless, with the league operating under a new ownership model and with an injection of new resources and personnel, confidence should be high.
Loeliger stated that conversations were being held with a number of different groups, both from Australia and overseas, that are interested in owning and running a new team in Brisbane.
“There are a number of interested parties, both from an ownership perspective and a management perspective. We’ve had some really good candidates put their hands up and want to get involved with what we’re doing in Brisbane,” he said.
“Unlike other years where it’s been promised and personnel have been a challenge, we think there are plenty of personnel out there who can do the job.
“But if we don’t find the right people for the job we would do it ourselves until we find those right people because sustainability and viability are really important above everything else.”
We would do it ourselves. That serious enough for you?
Such a situation could potentially mirror Football Federation Australia’s approach in the establishment of Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League.
The Wanderers were wholly owned by the FFA for the first two years of the club’s existence, before the license was transferred to a consortium of owners ahead of last season.
The NBL GM was forthright in his view that the team will go ahead.
“We’ll do it and we’ll make it work, one way or another.”
Loeliger paired with NBL Chairman Graeme Wade in Melbourne yesterday to launch the league’s rebranding, including a new logo, website and catchphrase.
Wade was similarly optimistic about Brisbane’s re-entry.
“That’s the game plan. We’ve got stadium issues up there but now we’ve got the resources that give us the flexibility to move if we need to and work our way through any dramas that the stadium might create,” Wade said.
“Basically, we think we can do it.”
The NBL is currently in negotiations with potential broadcast partners for the upcoming season and beyond. Those negotiations have only further strengthened the league’s resolve to make it happen in Brisbane.
“The broadcasters are nuts about Brisbane and we’ve got a community up there that’s nuts about the NBL so we have to deliver,” Wade told Downtown.
“It’s also going to be big for our reputation as well because there’s been a lot of talk about it, so delivering is something we’re going to do.”
Loeliger echoed those thoughts.
“To be perfectly honest, any serious broadcaster who wants to be involved with us will require us to have a Brisbane team for next year,” he said.
“Irrespective of whether or not we get a broadcast deal this year – and I’m still really hopeful that we will – we must have a Brisbane team for next year in order to have a credible offering for the broadcaster.”Australian Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Sengstock and businessman Paul Bendat were key figures in a consortium that held lengthy discussions with the NBL last year about purchasing the licence. However Mr Wade confirmed with Downtown that none of the ‘interested parties’ the league is currently communicating with include people involved in previous bids.
One thing’s for sure, the league’s GM is certain about having a Brisbane team in for the 2016-17 season.
His message to hoops fans in Bris Vegas was loud and clear.
“You’ll have an outfit to support next year,” he said.
“We’ve worked a number of minor miracles in the last two months but getting a Brisbane team up in time for this year, I apologise is not going to happen.
“But it’ll be worth the wait.”