The National Basketball League is seriously exploring Tasmania as part of its plans for future expansion.
But the sticking points for a possible return of a Tasmanian team after two decades in the wilderness could remain over infrastructure, a broad supporter base and an owner to bankroll the new club.
Hobart Chargers have previously shown interest in filling the gap since the Hobart Tassie Devils were one of three former sides to vacate the NBL at the end of 1996.
But NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger has told The Sunday Examiner he would strongly favour an all-state approach to best capitalise on market share to include some regular-season games in Launceston or Ulverstone.
“I certainly do – I think you would try and extend that footprint as far and wide as possible without diluting the product much,” Loeliger said.
“I think there would be great potential in playing in Hobart and Launceston, maybe Ulverstone. But the question remains around infrastructure of the stadiums.
“You might have a good SEABL venue, but really that doesn’t mean it’s up to the standard that’ll be required for a live NBL broadcast.”
"Basketball is booming in Australia, it’s popularity is skyrocketing... The NBL is on an upward trajectory, and with Simmons being selected to the biggest showcase event outside of the NBA Finals, basketball will remain front and centre of the Australian general public." https://t.co/Fboy4epla0— Jeremy Loeliger (@JeremyLoeliger) January 9, 2018
Any proposal to involve games in Northern Tasmania would throw up the Silverdome after broadcasters televised successfully a premier netball Test match between Australia and New Zealand back in October 2016.
SEABL side Launceston Tornadoes play out of the smaller Elphin Sports Centre.
Loeliger was concerned Hobart was not a big enough market to sustain a NBL club alone after its past history.
“We’re very confident of how important the Tasmanian market is, as there is very strong participation of basketball in the state,” he said.
“There’s such a rich history of the NBL playing in Tassie.
“We’re also very confident around any discussion around expansion that it’s a discussion that should be entered into with great care and a huge amount of diligence.”
The NBL has made no secret of its willingness to expand from the current eight to a 12 or 14-team model.
This comes on the back of the NBL once peaking at 16 clubs in the early 1990s before declining when clubs ran into financial trouble.
But Loeliger is confident the revival of the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets is a forerunner for Tasmania.
“The existence of a supporter base, the existence of infrastructure for training and playing and the existence of an owner who has the financial sophistication and wherewithal to be able to do this in a sustainable fashion will help Tassie,” he said.
“But I can’t put my hand on my heart and say that there has been an approach that’s been made to us that ticks all of those boxes just at present.
“There certainly has been great interest coming out of Tasmania and particularly from the Chargers about having that conversation at some point in the future once they’re ready to roll.
“I guess the question in the meantime becomes what is our strategy for engaging more with Tasmania.”