HomeBasketballExclusive: NBL Commissioner Speaks On New Innovations For 2021 NBL Season

Exclusive: NBL Commissioner Speaks On New Innovations For 2021 NBL Season

Exclusive: NBL Commissioner Speaks On New Innovations For 2021 NBL Season

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n an exclusive interview with Ministry of Sport, NBL commissioner, Jeremy Loeliger, discussed the 2021 NBL season and how the NBL plans to help Australia’s financial and emotional recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the 2021 NBL season heading into its fourth round this weekend, Loeliger said the upcoming NBL Cup, which is scheduled to start February 20, will provide a major boost for all NBL clubs and the league as a whole.

“We’ve said this will be a season like no other and to expect the unexpected and not just because of the new challenges we all face since COVID,” Loeliger told Ministry of Sport.

“But also because this season we will continue to innovate and do our best to turn challenges into opportunities.

“The biggest innovation is the NBL Cup to be staged in Melbourne from February 20.

“It will feature all nine teams playing 36 games across a four-week period.

“While all games will count towards the regular home and away season it will also be its own competition within the season itself, with three points awarded for every game won in the hub, and one point awarded for every quarter of every game won – with $300,000 in prizemoney up for grabs.

“We intend to play double headers across the NBL Cup and make tickets very affordable for families with tickets starting from just $17 for two games.

“We think it’s an important innovation because it helps our clubs financially but it’s also a great offering for fans, particularly between the end of the Australian Open and the start of the AFL and NRL seasons.

“It gives us an opportunity to showcase the NBL in a way we haven’t done before, and we are genuinely excited about it.

“Another fantastic innovation this season is the first Australian players to be a part of our Next Stars programme – Josh Giddey at the Adelaide 36ers, and Mojave King at the Cairns Taipans, both of whom are making the most of their opportunities so far and are well and truly on the radar of NBA scouts ahead of the 2021 NBA Draft, hoping to emulate last year’s Next Stars phenom LaMelo Ball,” he said.

Speaking about how the NBL is committed to playing out a season with each team getting 14 home games across 2021, Loeliger said the importance of the full season is closely connected to the importance of fan attendance.

“It was critical that our teams play as normal a season as possible,” Loeliger said.

“The NBL does not have the advantage of big broadcast deals like some other sports so it was critical to the clubs’ revenue generating capacity that we could get fans back into venues as soon as possible, and with as few restrictions on capacity as possible.

“That’s why we made the decision to delay the start of the season from October to January, so they had the best chance of playing in front of as many fans as possible.

“Permitted seating capacity currently varies across the country but it will hopefully continue to increase the longer the season runs.

“So far we’ve been really happy with the attendances in cities such as Adelaide where 27,000 fans attended the 36ers first four home games.

“And we’re hoping we can have over 5,000 fans at games at John Cain Arena in Melbourne for the NBL Cup.

“We are a live, in-venue entertainment product so it’s critical fans can attend,” he said.

Loeliger also discussed the role the NBL plays in Australia’s COVId-19 recovery through 2021 and beyond, saying: “Governments across Australia understand the important role sport and major events play in the economy.”

“Sport generates jobs but also tourism and other economic benefits.

“It’s why they invest in sport and the NBL is no different.

“We are grateful that we have been able to partner with the Victorian Government for the NBL Cup as the Government looks to get sport and major events flowing again in the state.

“It’s why we work so closely with Government right across Australia because there are benefits not just for the NBL but the wider community.

“The Tasmanian Government is the major partner in our 10th team, the Tasmania JackJumpers, which will make its debut in the NBL in October 2021.

“The JackJumpers will create hundreds of new jobs as well as driving tourism and investment in Tasmania but also hopefully inspire more young men and woman to play basketball and grow the sport across the state,” he said.

When asked how the NBL’s commercial partners have reacted to the decisions made by the NBL regarding the 2021 season, Loeliger said the support the NBL has received from its partners over the past 12 months has helped the league navigate what has been a very challenging period for everyone.

“We’ve had incredible support from all of our corporate partners over the past 12 months,” Loeliger said.

“Naturally they have been impacted by COVID and been concerned about what its impact would also be on the NBL.

“But they have remained loyal because they have also seen the growth we’ve enjoyed over the past five years and where the league and the sport is heading.

“In fact we’ve been able to grow our stable of sponsors and bring big brands like Tik Tok into the NBL which is no mean feat when you consider the huge fall-out from COVID for so many businesses over the past year.

“We’ve been humbled by their support as we have that of the clubs and the players.

“There has been tremendous a sense of unity across the league and its stakeholders and that has helped us navigate through a very challenging period for everyone,” he said.

Finally, when asked what advice he would give to any sporting organisation in Australia currently planning their 2021 season, Loeliger said flexibility, unity and innovation are key.

“It’s become a cliché, but you simply have to be very nimble because you are dealing with a range of circumstances that you can’t control,” Loeliger told Ministry of Sport.

“We’ve been not only at the mercy of the pandemic but the consequences of that on state borders and other restrictions which we continually have to manoeuvre around.

“We’ve had to change our schedule and relocate teams to stay ahead of potential issues.

“It’s critical that you work together with all of your stakeholders to drive outcomes that will benefit everyone.

“Unity is critical as is consultation and we’ve sought advice from not just within the sport but also people outside of it.

“There’s naturally going to be pain but it’s about trying to make the best of a bad situation and also innovate where you can.

“I’m not sure we would have necessarily staged an event like the NBL Cup if it hadn’t been for COVID but we are excited the opportunities it presents for us this year, and into the future,” he said.

To read Ministry of Sport’s exclusive interview with NBL commissioner, Jeremy Loeliger in 2020 after the 2019/20 NBL season was stopped early during the finals series due to COVID-19, click here.

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