Excuse me Sir, could I have some independence with my McPeake?


When each of the National Basketball League’s club owners unanimously voted in favour of an independent board on November 8 2008, the light at the end of the troubled sport’s tunnel finally began to shine.  The shackles of selfish owners acting in their own interests, rather than the game’s, were about to be broken. Or so we thought.

One of the members of the independent board, now named the “Board of Basketball”, is Melbourne Tigers owner Seamus McPeake, who has been entrusted with the role of representing the league’s clubs. The decision to trust McPeake to act in this manner may soon be regretted if his recent interview on Melbourne radio station SEN is anything indication. Asked if the Melbourne Tigers had any influence on the future of Australian basketball, McPeake premised his answer by saying that his power was equal to any of the league’s other owners. He then went on to explain, however, that the Tigers have lodged a non-compliant bid to be part of the NewNBL. This is not because the club couldn’t meet the financial criteria. Rather McPeake, knowing the South Dragons hope to play a handful of home games at The Cage from next season, has told the NBL that his team’s participation in the league is conditional upon them having exclusive rights to their venue. 

There is no logical justification for McPeake, as a member of the independent board, to have taken this action. No one knows better than him the financial fruit of playing at The Cage, for his club is one of the few who actually makes a profit. By permitting the Dragons to use The Cage, and therefore escape the exorbitant costs of Hisense Arena, the NewNBL would be providing the club the opportunity to be more financially viable, which, subsequently, makes for a more stable league. That is a prospect which should be music to an independent board member’s ears.  McPeake, however, has instead decided to act with the same self-interest that has already dragged the league into a nadir by seeking to protect his own backyard.

Venue rationalization began in Australian Football decades ago, and is now being seen in Rugby League. Why? Because it obviously makes economic sense. It may have eliminated a sense of tribalism, for the only thing distinguishing the home team from their visitors is the colour of their shorts, but in the age of commercialization this has been rendered ancillary to a club’s ability to survive.

If the Board of Basketball is serious about independence and the game’s best interests, it must ignore McPeake’s shameless attempt at blackmail. Basketball needs sensible management more than it needs the Melbourne Tigers.