National Basketball League chief Jeremy Loeliger has again come out to say that the league is keen to expand into Asia saying he would like to see a team from both China and the Philippines enter the league in the next two years.
The claims from Loeliger comes off the back of a successful 2016-17 regular season for the league which recorded its highest-ever average attendance and a 20 per cent spike in pay-TV ratings.
“We talk about the halcyon days and the golden era of the NBL being the late 1980s and the early 90s and yet this season we’ve pretty much surpassed every record from back then,” Loeliger told AAP, via SBS.
“So we are in the halcyon days of the NBL and we are in the golden era at the moment. I think the figures bear that out now.”
Before the season’s tip-off, the NBL invited two teams from China’s Basketball Association to compete in a pre-season tournament with NBL clubs.
The big push into China occurred prior to the 2016-17 season tip-off when the league signed a comprehensive broadcast and streaming deal into China. NBL matches were streamed live on the Alibaba owned Youku platform, and sports website Sina Sports.
With eights teams competing across Australia and New Zealand, Loeliger again stressed it was keen to add Asia-based teams within two years.
“I think it’s probably a two-step process,” he said.
“Next year we would like to see a lot more Asian talent in our existing teams and I think all of our clubs have bought into the philosophy behind doing that.
“The season after I would hope to see teams from each of China and the Philippines represented in the NBL.
“We’ve had more (TV) viewers in China this year than we have had in Australia despite the fact that we’ve not yet spent a dollar on advertising or marketing in China. It’s just been by word of mouth.”
On the domestic front, NBL owner Larry Kestelman confirmed in December that the league was looking to bring in three new franchises, but Loeliger was a bit more cautious on adding more teams domestically.
“The last thing we want to do is grow too quickly and dilute our talent pool here and end up lowering the quality of the competition here rather than improving it year on year,” he said.
“But if we can do it in a manner that is sustainable, both in terms of the business of basketball and in terms of the quality of what’s on court, then we’d be mad not to consider it.
“I think it’s unlikely domestic expansion would happen before expansion into Asia. It may well happen at the same time.”