Melbourne’s south east scores new NBL franchise

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The National Basketball League has confirmed Melbourne’s south east will be the home of the ninth franchise in the competition and the second team based in Victoria. TheSeptember 2 announcement named Romie Chaudhari, co-owner of English Championship soccer team Swansea City, as the new team’s owner.

NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger said the choice of state was strongly influenced by major funding commitments made by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and his government, which he said is reflective of the important role the sport of basketball plays in the Victoria.

“It was unquestionably the deciding factor amongst a number of compelling propositions, and I applaud the Victorian government and Knox City Council for their recognition of the importance of basketball in the Australian sporting landscape,” Loeliger said.

The Victorian proposal includes a $126-million expansion to the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South which is already home to the offices of Basketball Australia, Basketball Victoria, WNBL club Melbourne Boomers and the Knox Raiders Basketball Association.

While based at the centre for administration and training purposes, the new NBL team will play matches at Melbourne Arena (formerly Hisense Arena), which is part of the Melbourne & Olympic Parks precinct. Melbourne Arena will also receive $13 million in upgrades, which will help boost the capacity for basketball and netball games. 

The playing schedule could include two games per season at the State Basketball Centre once the expansion is completed, around 2022.

Loeliger and the NBL look forward to seeing basketball played at an upgraded Melbourne Arena and to working with the community to build a great club they can be proud of. 

“It’s important the community feels like it is a part of the team right from the beginning of this exciting journey,” he said. “That includes having a say in the team’s name and colours and building a real and lasting connection to the club.”

Loeliger also paid tribute to Melbourne United, applauding them for their tremendous job to grow basketball in Victoria and for being supportive of a local rival. “We now want to work with them to take the game to more people than ever and build a huge rivalry in this very exciting growth phase for Australian basketball and the NBL,” he said.

The new NBL team is in the heartland of Australian basketball. Melbourne’s south east has a rich history in elite and community basketball, and the highest basketball participation rates in the nation with around 100,000 registered participants.

This is compared with Victoria’s 240,000 total registered participants and, according to Australian Sports Commission statistics, a national club-based participation rate estimated at nearly 600,000, the sixth largest sport in Australia. 

In recognition of this stronghold, basketball officials are considering an option to move the Australian Basketball Centre of Excellence from Canberra to Melbourne’s south east.

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