Basketball: Breakers hope split will prove profitable

By Kris Shannon

The Breakers celebrate their three-peat in Perth. Photo / Paul Kane
The Breakers celebrate their three-peat in Perth. Photo / Paul Kane

The Breakers have broken new ground on the court in recent seasons and now they will have the chance to do likewise outside the lines.

With Basketball Australia and the National Basketball League today announcing an agreement to explore a de-merger, the three-time defending champions could be in a position to achieve commercial results to match their title-winning exploits.

In previous seasons, the Breakers have operated at a loss despite their success. With a significant amount of revenue being funnelled into Basketball Australia and nothing coming in return, the club has relied on owners Paul and Liz Blackwell to ensure its survival.

But under a potential new model in which the ANBL clubs would take responsibility for their commercial success, general manager Richard Clarke hopes the Breakers will now be in a position to turn a profit.

"The simplest description [of the de-merger] is wanting to have people who are running the league and the commercial side who wake up in the morning and their sole focus is the NBL and driving a commercial return,'' Clarke said.

"We've achieved a much-improved result this year and if we can reduce our outgoing funds to the league and ideally get a distribution, that helps us in a lot of ways.''

Those outgoing fund include a $100,000 participation fee paid to Basketball Australia, which will no longer be required. Teams in the ANBL also have to provide the capital for their own salary, unlike their counterparts in other transtasman competitions.

"Similar to what the A-League will have next year and what the NRL already enjoys, if we had received our salary cap as a distribution from the NBL then we would be profitable and sustainable - it's as simple as that,'' Clarke said.

Sustainability is one of the Breakers' key targets, with a desire to reinforce all they have achieved since the turn of the decade. It's why ticket prices will be slightly raised for next season to match their opponents and why their two playoff sweeps were bad news for the club's coffers.

Had the Breakers been taken to a third game in their semifinal and grand final series, selling out Vector Arena once more would have gone a long way to seeing their finances break into the black. But if the league's clubs can take control of their own management and governance, the Breakers' future will adopt a brighter hue regardless of revenue-boosting finals fixtures.

"The idea was that the de-merger and change of commercial focus should drive distribution back to the clubs as well, as a reduction of the costs going out,'' Clarke said.

"If we can grow broadcasting and sponsorship and other commercial revenues, those will be shared by clubs as shareholders in this new entity.

"It's very much like the NBA model, where the clubs own the league but it still sits under the governance of the governing bodies, in terms of being part of Fiba and part of the game in Australia.''

And not only would the new model aid the Kiwi club's finances, Clarke believes the league as a whole can benefit from tapping into a market it had largely ignored under Basketball Australia's stewardship.

"I think there's also opportunities for the league to exploit the New Zealand market a bit more than it has, in terms of sponsorship, et cetera. At the moment it hasn't been seen as a focus _ all of the attention has been on the Australian market but ignoring a market where a team is doing well and has a great media and fan profile. I think there's some opportunities there that will help us as well.''


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