New South Wales has emerged as a frontrunner to host NBL hubs, with league Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger declaring the state has all the attributes to successfully restart the season.
Loeliger confirmed that the league has held positive talks with the NSW Government about Sydney and regional areas like Wollongong and Newcastle hosting hubs.
South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria are also in the mix, but Sydney and surrounding areas look to be favoured as locations to restart the season in mid-January.
Victoria looks to be New South Wales’ biggest threat, with the Victorian government having productive talks with the NBL about hosting all nine teams at Melbourne Arena after the Australian Open tennis tournament.
“New South Wales has everything we would need in order to be able to play in a hub if we decide to do that for part or all of the season,” Loeliger said.
“Our conversations with various representatives of NSW Government have been both positive and productive. We are very confident of the ability to host more NBL games in NSW than would ordinarily be the case and that’s underpinned by the fact that they have first class facilities both in Sydney and also in regional areas such as Wollongong and Newcastle.
“Sport and major events will be critical to the economic recovery of the state and we think the NBL can assist in this regard, potentially bringing tourists from around the country to watch their teams compete in NSW if they’re not able to do so in their home cities.”
Loeliger believes NSW is building strongly as a respected destination for basketball.
He feels a hub in the state would also be hugely beneficial for the growth of the sport, especially in the junior ranks.
“Basketball is growing rapidly in NSW, which has two NBL teams in the Kings and the Hawks, and a very significant fan base across the state.
“Sydney will of course also host the FIBA Women’s World Cup in 2022.”
Loeliger also welcomed the news that NSW Stadiums can now hold a capacity of 50 per cent – up from the previous mark of 25 per cent due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans attending NBL games is paramount for the sport’s financial future given the NBL doesn’t have a big dollar broadcast deal.
“Today’s announcement about increasing stadium capacity in NSW is good news for sport and a positive sign for the NBL,” he said.
“The health and safety of players, staff and fans is paramount but the concept of a hub also provides us with a great opportunity to start our season with some certainty and also meet our aim of making games accessible to as many fans as possible.
“The NBL has enjoyed huge growth in recent seasons and we want to maintain that momentum notwithstanding the challenges all sports are facing.”