NBL fights for future as Foxtel reviews coverage
By Andrew Hamilton
March 18, 2008 12:00am
CONCERNS Foxtel is about to withdraw its coverage of the NBL has plunged the league's future into doubt.
Just days after the Sydney Kings lost a grand final series decider to the Melbourne Tigers, ending a season of uncertainty, fears mounted about the broadcaster's commitment to the sport.
The Brisbane Bullets could also be on the brink after general manager Jeff Van Groningen yesterday resigned, following owner Eddy Groves out the door.
If a buyer can't be found before the NBL free agents' list is lodged on Friday, the majority of Brisbane's squad will be forced to look elsewhere.
Talk that Foxtel is considering pulling its coverage in favour of beefing up its A-League coverage is creating problems for clubs seeking owners and sponsors right across the league.
In a statement last night, Foxtel said: "We are currently in discussions with the NBL for next season and the finals season, just completed, was one of the most successful in the competition's history."
Leading venue management executive Harvey Lister, who has had a long association with the Bullets since their days at Brisbane Entertainment Centre in the 1980s, has been mentioned as a possible saviour.
But the head of Ogden International said he would need to be convinced the game had a viable future, and that included live TV coverage.
"We want to know the commercial future of the league itself," Lister said.
"We would certainly be prepared to consider taking our place in a rescue package, but only if we were comfortable the league was sustainable.
"We don't have any ego about having to own a sporting franchise."
Van Groningen reportedly informed the players of his departure by text message, almost a week after his last contact with the group.
Although the official word is the former Melbourne Tigers boss had resigned, there was a suggestion last night he had been pushed because of a strained relationship with coach Joey Wright.
But Van Groningen said he was leaving to pave the way for a new ownership group.
In the war between the football codes the biggest casualties will be all other sports.