Get New Zealand Basketball the funding it deserves! An open letter to the minister…

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Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/grant-robertson-get-new-zealand-basketball-the-funding-it-deserves

E ngā rangatira o te motu nei, tae atu ki te Ika a Māui, tēnā koutou,

Re: An Open Letter to the Minister of Sport & Recreation, Hon Grant Robertson

Tuia te rangi i runga nei, tuia te papa e takoto nei, ka rongo te motu me te ao i te korero, puata i te marama ahunuku, te marama ahurangi, te marama ka takoto i te aio, tuia rātou kua wehe ki te po uriuri ki te pō tango, he maimai aroha ki rātou…he aroha. Huri te pō ki te whai ao ki te ao mārama.

Over the last week Kiwi basketball fans have had the feeling of déjà vu, and it is more than a feeling, it is sadly reality for the basketball community of being ignored multiple times over.  While, as supporters of the positive role of sport in the community, we are pleased Rugby, Netball, Football & Rugby League have received government support, we strongly believe there is absolutely no valid rationale for why Basketball has not received similar support. There is seemingly an historic and in-built institutional bias against funding basketball which is out of date and doesn’t reflect where the sport now sits within our community. We have considered the rationale for funding the Sals NBL against the criteria for funding implied in the media releases and we are confident, on review, that you will agree funding for basketball is well deserved. We have largely compared basketball with rugby and netball given the strong similarities in that they are all National Leagues and have also been operating to similar timeframes in the response to Covid-19. We have also focused on the Men’s Sal’s NBL as that is what we are directly involved with but we are certain the same arguments apply equally to the Women’s Sal’s NBL. We respect the Minister’s passionate support for sport and believe if enough of the basketball community collectivise to voice our opinion he can be convinced to re-consider the decision. Hence we encourage you all to sign this petition and / or write a letter to the Minister.

  1. The critical role these professional franchises play in entertaining New Zealanders, uniting communities and inspiring young people. According to School Sport New Zealand figures released in February 2019, basketball is now the second largest sport in the country after a massive 44.9% increase in players over the last decade. Should this trend continue, basketball will become the number one New Zealand secondary schools sport this year. In comparison rugby, netball, rugby league and football numbers have all decreased over the same period. Basketball is a global game that is the preferred sport for many people and caters for kiwis of all races, creeds and genders. The NBL franchises are fundamental components of their local basketball communities delivering Kiwi Hoops In-Schools Programmes and encouraging increased participation throughout the country.  The coaches and franchises also provide expertise in their regions to support coach education and provide development opportunities for junior athletes. The 2020 competition will furthermore feature 56 games, all broadcast on Sky Sport, with some games also featuring on free to air through Sky Sport Next, Prime, Stuff and the Tribe App. 

The Sals NBL plays a critical role in entertaining, uniting communities and inspiring young people.

  1. The critical role these professional franchises play in providing important end-to-end pathways for talented sportspeople. The NZ NBL League will celebrate 40 years next year, the oldest semi-professional league in New Zealand. The 7 teams and 84 players participating this season include 19 current or ex Tall Blacks. In addition there are number more highly talented former Junior Tall Blacks who have recently graduated from the US College system and will be endeavoring to utilise the Sals NBL as the platform to launch full-time professional and Tall Black careers. Finally there will be younger players utilizing training and some playing time in the NBL environment as preparation for upcoming US College careers. 

The Sals NBL is without doubt an important pathway for talented Kiwi basketballers.

  1. The timing of Covid-19 directly and negatively impacted the competitions. The regular Sals NBL league was due to kick off on 9th of April but was postponed on the 19th March due to Covid-19. The regular season was an eight-team competition with each team playing 9 home and 9 away games prior to semi-finals and final over 4 months. Franchises were fully committed to the original season and had already incurred significant costs and obligations including player and coach wages, accommodation costs, international travel costs for players to arrive, team travel, venue bookings, marketing costs, ticket sales, sponsor commitments, overhead costs and others. Due to the impact of Covid-19 on the NBL and individual Franchise finances and projected crowd restrictions the regular season was no longer an option. But the Sals NBL management team immediately began planning for a modified season, a season which would get the athletes back on the court and provide entertainment for basketball fans. The only financially viable option, given the impacts of Covid-19 on Franchise revenues and the costs already incurred in preparing for the 9 April original start date, was a 6-week competition entirely played in Auckland. The solution was worked through in a very similar timeframe to rugby and netball and the table below highlights there has been no material difference to the timing of impact and responses from the three sports.
Key EventsSals NBLANZ Premiership NetballSuper Rugby
Draw for original season released15th November, 20196th November, 20199th September, 2019
First Game of Original Season9th April15th March31st January
Postponed regular season19th March20th March15th March
Initial news of a revised season20th April7th May7th May
Announcement of start date19th May11th May11th May
Release of Competition Schedule21st May22nd May11th May
Start Date23rd June19th June13th June

There is no argument that the 2020 Sal’s NBL competition has been dramatically impacted by Covid-19 and also responded to it in a similar manner and timeframe to Rugby and Netball.

  1. The Leagues and Franchises have exhausted their financial options and their revenues have come to a grinding halt. The Franchises were impacted immediately with revenue streams coming to a grinding halt. Regardless of whether crowd restrictions were lifted or not it was very clear that Franchises could collectively no longer afford the costs of a standard 2020 season and hence the only solution was the reduced 6-week season in one location. Even then there would have been no season at all without the capacity of the Sals NBL to step in and cover the very large majority of the cost of over $1m for the revised competition. This has only been possible due to the exciting growth of the Sals NBL in the last 18 months and in particular the sponsorship support received in 2020. However there has been a large cost to the Sals NBL and its franchises, including:
  2. The Sals NBL will run at a loss essentially using the reserves it built through 2019
  3. Franchises are operating on little to no reserves with little recovery in revenues
  4. Coaches and support staff are on significantly reduced wages
  5. Whereas a number of Franchises had player wage budgets of ~$200k this is now reduced to ~$35K per Franchise which is a dramatic decrease

There is a strong argument that basketball has had to take a greater proportion financial hit than either rugby or netball.

In conclusion, the Sals NBL and Franchises have put together a modified competition in a timely and responsive way with a scheduled 23rd June start.  This league allows top level basketball players & coaches to get back to work, and gives basketball fans throughout the country the opportunity to watch high level basketball at a time where no other basketball league will be played throughout the world.  And most importantly this employment of these players and coaches keeps their expertise in New Zealand to continue providing coaching in-schools, developing coaches and our talented young high school players. Thanks to the huge effort and hours of work put in by the Sal’s NBL and its franchises, there is now a season, however it’s not without significant sacrifice. The league will be run in one location, over a 6-week period to save costs, the players & coaches are taking an extreme hit to what they’d usually get paid and the Sal’s NBL will run at a loss. 

All we have is more questions? Why is basketball expected to battle through on the edge of insolvency when rugby and netball get bailed out?  Why shouldn’t Basketball receive funding when Covid-19 has so drastically impacted the wages it can pay to its players, coaches and support staff? Why shouldn’t Basketball receive funding so the Sals NBL and Franchises can not only survive this year, but continue to grow and provide a pathway for our talented young kiwi basketballers and inspiring kids to play the game that will be the number 1 played secondary sport by the end of this year? How is Basketball different, other than a greater number of kids want to start playing it each year more than any other major sport in New Zealand? Why is Basketball treated differently to rugby and netball?

We implore you to support this petition and / or write your own letter to the Minister imploring him to reconsider the decision not to allocate any funding to the Sal’s NBL (Women’s and Men’s) and furthermore undertake a strategic review of funding to sport.

Nāku noa, nā

Canterbury Rams on behalf of all passionate Kiwi Hoops Fans

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