Time for private ownership to become public

This article can also be found at THE ROAR   Go there and give it a cheer!


The National Basketball League’s most recent crises have drawn several conclusions from the game’s heavy-hitters.

The respective captains of the two rebel clubs clearly don’t do decorum, with Mark Worthington labelling Basketball Australia “idiots” who “killed our game”, and Chris Anstey describing the league  as a “piece of crap.”

Victorian Sports Minister James Merlino, who prior to this month’s announcement of a new basketball complex at Knox had never shown any great interest in basketball, suggested the prospect of a national league without Victorian representation was “a joke.”

“Basketball’s dead”, meanwhile, has become a cliché within sporting discourse, particularly from those who conveniently become instant experts whenever the game hits troubled times, in the same way as people becoming racing aficionados when the spring carnival arrives.

Beyond the emotion and hyperbolic ignorance, however, is the realisation that basketball can simply no longer tolerate the perils of private ownership.

Too often an entire sport – which comprises hundreds of thousands of participants, supporters, sponsors, administrators and volunteers – has been dragged through the mud by the self-serving agendas of one or two individuals.

The fraudulence of former Sydney Kings owner Tim Johnston epitomised the risks of private ownership, as did the more innocent troubles of Eddy Groves.

Now, as basketball has sought unified reform through the establishment of an independent board, the actions of a few owners has once again shattered the game’s perception.

The Adelaide 36ers are perhaps one of the proudest clubs in Australian basketball, with ‘Title Town’ home to the most passion-fuelled, knowledgeable supporters in the country. Yet, when the whole club recently stared death in the face due to its inability to secure a million-dollar bank guarantee, owner Mal Hemmerling showed his commitment by hopping on a big bird for a holiday.

This shows the ludicrous imbalance in the fate of a club under the private ownership model. Consistent crowds, healthy media coverage and a successful on-court history are all rendered irrelevant by the dependence on a sole benefactor.

The South Dragons are a similar story. Mark Cowan was known as one of the most passionate and wealthy owners in the league, yet, according to the grapevine, the whole club has been brought to its knees by minority owner Raphael Geminder’s refusal to support changes which are incongruous with his personal agenda.

Melbourne Tigers owner Seamus McPeake, meanwhile, believes it is impossible to make a profit under the proposed 2009/10 model, and he wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning if there was no prospect of earning a dollar that day.

Cairns and Wollongong, albeit out of necessity, have turned to a more sustainable model of community ownership to lead them into the new age of Australian basketball. With the Hawks now operating under a not-for-profit board acting in the interests of the club’s members, it is difficult to see them ever withdrawing from the competition because of some personal gripes, or being driven into oblivion by reckless spending.

Ignore the doomsayers; basketball in this country is not dead. The national men’s league is on the cusp of being placed in an induced coma, but the product of elite basketball is too good not to make a full recovery.

All it needs is some tender loving care from people who genuinely love the game.


Exit The Dragon

Scibz’ Spiel has typically made a point of avoiding self-indulgence – not once has the letter “I” been used in any of its blogs.

But for the sake of letting a shattered man grieve, please let me get something off my chest. This is not the best time to be writing as a passionate Dragons supporter still shocked and heartbroken by the news that the reigning champion has pulled the plug indefinitely, but if they don’t want to provide answers then I’ll simply ask questions.

The overriding feeling right now is WHY? Just two days ago, co-owner Mark Cowan was quoted in an official NBL press release speaking on behalf of club owners, saying:

“The dialogue we had with the BA Board was very fruitful and I believe we are edging ever closer to having ironed out the finer details in the blueprint for the new league,” said Cowan. “We’re feeling optimistic about the outcome of the EOI and look forward to working with the BA Board towards an announcement next week.”

On Wednesday, the club issued a press release announcing coach Brian Goorjian had been appointed as team consultant to Team China, with Cowan quoted:

“We see this as a great thing for Brian,” said Dragons chairman Mark Cowan. “Not only is he coaching at the highest level, but he’s representing our club and spreading the word about the Dragons throughout China.”

Goorjian himself spoke in an AAP article on the new NBL:

“I’m hearing some good things right now about [BA] making some firm decisions.

“We’re going to have to start back, and we’re going to have build it. It’ll grow. I have a good feeling right now about the next step, and it’s hopefully going to make huge headway over the next few years.”

Then there was the news that Tigers owner Seamus McPeake had cut ties with the club, seemingly paving the way for the Dragons to finally move to the financially-friendly Cage.

So what happened in the last day-and-a-half?

The Dragons’ press release simply finished with the sentence:

Further comment will be available next week.

This is a poor way to handle things – either explain to your members why they no longer have a club, or don’t announce it until you’re ready to provide answers. As a member who followed the club before it was even granted a license, it is insulting.

It is also incredibly heartbreaking to contemplate a summer without the sheer enjoyment this club has provided over the past three seasons.

The enjoyment of walking up Swan Street, head-high with anticipation, watching cars turn into the car park and looking toward the box-office to gauge how many people would attend that night. GONE.

The enjoyment of sitting with the same familiar faces, watching our beloved team, and sharing the ecstasy of success or the despair of defeat. GONE.

The enjoyment of heading towards the function room and eagerly awaiting the presence of players and coaches to mull over another great game. GONE.

The potential enjoyment of sitting at a Dragons game with our championship banner hanging from the rafters, after two years of pain. GONE BEFORE IT HAPPENED.

Being a member, I sat next to the same lady all season. We gave each other the occasional nod and smile, but for some reason never introduced ourselves until the playoffs.  We came across each other again at the members day after the grand final victory, both agreeing to renew the same seats again next year. “See ya next season”, we both said when departing.

No we won’t. Possibly never again.

It’s enough to have this self-indulgent blogger crying all over his keyboard.

Life of…Bruce?

Australian Rugby League CEO Geoff Carr last week described West Sydney as the AFL’s “Vietnam”, but it appears Sydney City is Australian Basketball’s battleground.

Not only is Sydney unlikely to be represented when the ‘new NBL’ is supposedly announced next week, but according to the following headline the city’s biggest newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, has forgotten the name of the man who only a few years ago took the Sydney Kings to three-consecutive championships.

Don’t adjust your monitors; apparently “Bruce Goorjian” has joined Team China as a team consultant.

Ah, gotta love Richard Murdoch’s….er…Rupert Murdoch’s press.