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WNBL review calls for move to winter and shorter season
The Women's National Basketball League (WNBL) could undergo a massive transformation following a review of the league by the Australian Sports Commission.
Principal among the report's 53 recommendations is a call for the league moving to back to play between April and July in a shorter 16-game season with an expanded finals series which involve home-and-away semi-finals series followed by a best-of-three grand final series
But it would also see elite Australian players and the best American imports unable to play in the WNBL due to the Women's National Basketball Association season in the USA running at the same time.
The report suggests Australia's leading players may chose to play in the WNBL and then in Europe or Asia during the Australian summer instead of the WNBA.
The report also demands the league have at least two teams in Melbourne and two in Sydney while also questioning the future of the West Coast Waves due to the club's poor recent history, lack of Australian Opals representatives and the higher cost of travelling to and from Perth.
The possible move to winter and the shape of the competition has been turned over to a working party of officials, the WNBL commission and selected players with the report recommending the first winter season come in for 2017 with next season remaining in summer.
But a move to winter would result in a longer gap between the end of next season and the start of a 2017 winter season.
Basketball Australia released the report, written by Suiko Consulting's Eugenie Buckley, on Tuesday after it was handed to the governing body in September 2014.
Basketball Australia Chief Executive Anthony Moore said many of the recommendations were already being put into place.
The report calls for all clubs to appoint a full-time general manager to boost revenue and sponsorships.
Basketball Australia was also told to appoint a WNBL General Manager to run the league - with former North Melbourne Giants star and Yale University graduate Paul Maley to fill this role - but Maley's position also means he is responsible for the South East Australian Basketball League, the national wheelchair basketball league and Australian Junior Championships.
The WNBL has a new South-East Queensland team as recommended while the report says there is a place for regional clubs like Townsville, Bendigo and Canberra but only if they continue to command the corporate and spectator support of their regions.
The report recommends the league look to live stream all its games and focus on its digital presence to promote itself better.
The report didn't give much hope to the WNBL being able to secure a new television partner, but Moore is attempting to follow netball's TV deal in which sponsors cover the cost of broadcasts, not TV channels.
Moore stated “(Basketball Australia) needs to be proactive in contingency planning to find a suitable alternative.
"The small audience means it is unlikely that another free-to-air or subscription television broadcaster would purchase the product. Accordingly, the most viable option would be online streaming."
Many of the recommendations focus on the off-court operations of the semi-professional league, which has run for 36 consecutive seasons with ongoing financial struggles.
Basketball Australia has also been told it should institute a salary cap of $200,000 a team - plus one marquee player each - while also centrally signing Australian Opals players and sharing them equally between clubs.
Clubs will also need to sign at least two under-19 players for their 12-player rosters while players under the age of 17 cannot sign with clubs unless they get permission from the national team coach or high performance manager.
The report also demands Basketball Australia move to find the funds to pay centrally for the WNBL operations so clubs can spend more money on marketing and drawing in new sponsors and members.
At present, each club pays a levy to cover a large portion of flights, referees and league operation costs.
The report sets the goal of having 75% of the Opals squad and 100% of the under-19 side eventually playing in the WNBL but that recommendation will raise concerns as many teenage Australian players want to play US college basketball with over 40 women playing in the US this season.
In the long term, the report states the WNBL should be a 10-team league and all clubs should have full-time general managers while also partnering with neighbouring NBL or associations to share marketing and administration costs.
The report also suggests Basketball Australia bring leading WNBA clubs to Australia in the pre- or post-season for blockbuster tour matches against a WNBL all-stars team - but that notion dismisses the fact many of the WNBA's stars head straight to Europe once their season finishes, thus stripping the best WNBA clubs of their best players.
Basketball Australia is also encouraged to bid for the 2022 FIBA women's world championships.
In an overall response to the report, Moore concluded “we have taken our time to work through the 53 recommendations of this Review and have developed our internal management responses to ensure that we deliver against each these.
“If we truly have the second or third best women’s league in the world, then we should run it accordingly.
“The ... Review provide us with a roadmap to deliver a strong healthy League and we intend to deliver on this model. This won’t be a report that sits in the draw.”
Among the report’s key recommendations:
• Basketball Australia’s Strategic Plan 2014-2018 needs to specifically identify the WNBL, its purpose and how it can be used as a platform to drive the attainment of participation, high performance and promotional objectives
• The WNBL should be the pinnacle of the national high performance pathway in Australia
• Basketball Australia and WNBL Clubs undertake a detailed annual review to assess team performance, financial viability, marketing support and compliance with minimum standards and regulations
Click here to read the full report.
25th November 2014 - ABC CUTS TO IMPACT WOMEN’S AND INDIGENOUS SPORT COVERAGE
21st March 2012 - CROWDS FLOCK TO WNBL
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