NBL owner Larry Kestelman is keen to increase the number of teams in the NBL. In an interview last week, Kestelman confirmed discussions had taken place with AFL clubs about possible involvement in NBL expansion.
NBL CEO Jeremy Loeliger also confirmed the interest flagged by AFL clubs in an interview with Sportsday radio Monday evening.
“There are a few AFL teams who are pretty keen to get involved with NBL expansion. AFL teams have marketing teams, physios, nutritionists, social media teams. All of which can be used with an aligned NBL team.”
Involvement in other sports
Cross code involvement is nothing new in Australian sport. Currently GWS and Collingwood have teams in the Super Netball league. The Melbourne Storm are also part owners of the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
On paper there are certainly plenty of advantages for clubs that are in a financially viable position to explore involvement and links to teams in other sporting codes or even starting a club from scratch.
It also reinforces that different sporting codes can work together and coexist without needing to be in constant competition with each other. Many fans support multiple sports. If the AFL club they follow got involved in another sport it may very well see them jump on board.
Using the same name as existing teams in other sporting codes has not always worked as some of the naysayers will point out. Some may recall the Carlton Soccer Club who spent a brief period in the NSL before disbanding during the 2000-1 season.
The club had an obvious affiliation to Carlton in the AFL as they were based at Princess Park and shared the same major sponsor. Unfortunately the Carlton NSL journey did not end happily ever after.
In July this year NBL management hinted the need for patience in not trying to do too much too early. But strategic planning beyond the 2017-18 season was obviously already under way as outlined by Loeliger back in July.
“A team based on the Gold Coast and playing in a number of different venues around Australia and games in China and Asia in general. They’re the two things we’re looking at currently.”
The NBL competition currently has eight teams, seven from Australia and one from New Zealand (NZ Breakers).
Exciting time ahead
Basketball has had mixed fortunes in the Australian market but the NBL is getting good media traction now. There is also reported interest from prominent business people and NBA players in the league which adds to the intrigue moving forward.
Most importantly this season the on-court product has been a high standard and entertaining. Time will tell if AFL clubs get involved. But it is refreshing to see some outside the box thinking from NBL management and those operating in different codes.
The million dollar question: If you follow an AFL club would you support them having NBL involvement?