In what has been a rollercoaster three months for the Sal’s NBL, the countdown is ticking to tip-off on Tuesday 23 June, when seven teams and 84 players descend upon the Trust’s Arena in Auckland for six weeks.
The NBL Board has decided to acknowledge 2020 as a different year due to COVID-19, so this season will be known as the Sal’s NBL Showdown.
“The NBL Board recognises that this year’s version of the competition is different and as such we wanted to give it a status to reflect its own slice of history in the overall journey of this much-loved national competition,” said NBL Chair, Iain Potter.
“Over the last couple of years the League has grown incredibly well. We reached new records for viewers last year and ran a fully sustainable event. This year has been a whirlwind to try and meet our broadcast, sponsors and player expectations, but 2020 has come together despite all the barriers. It’s going to be a great show, it’s only fitting we called this year’s competition the Sal’s NBL Showdown.”
With the country moving through COVID-19 incredibly well and Level 1 restrictions being announced yesterday by the Government, League General Manager Justin Nelson is delighted with the news fans will be allowed to attend games.
“The fans come first, that’s how we market the Sal’s NBL and to have them allowed into the Trusts Arena in Auckland means so much to all of us, especially the teams and players. I’m thrilled they will get to see 28 nights of great basketball featuring players from across the country.”
Despite the doors being open to the public and the opportunity it creates to bring in some much-needed revenue, Nelson says a return to what the 2020 season once looked like just isn’t realistic.
“We’ve just had ten weeks of lockdown. Now that fans are allowed back does not mean we can return to a full-blown home-and-away season. That will happen, but not this year. If we did, teams would fall over financially through the cost of travel and accommodation, increased wages and paying for stadiums. It’s a fact that revenue streams for teams have not recovered and it just isn’t possible yet.
“This year the League has had to cover the bills to the tune of over a million dollars, with no added support, which has added significant pressure. However, that’s the reality of how the pandemic has hit our business.
“We are thrilled with how the teams and League has adapted. We are going to meet our sponsor and broadcast arrangements, and we are going to see some great players on the court and returning to work. We are doing all we can to support our teams and players financially. The competing teams, their boards, the players and staff should be commended for getting in behind this and achieving what felt like an impossible task two months ago.
“What is being achieved in 2020 is setting the scene for next year too. We are building back up and because of the hard work and sacrifices of many, 2021’s season will return with strength and games will be played across the country,” says Nelson.
Thursday night’s draft for the Sal’s NBL Showdown will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 3 from 5pm with the first five rounds set to be unveiled. This will be followed by a second instalment on Sky Sport Next, Stuff.co.nz, Tribe Sports App and the @NZNBL Facebook page from 7:30pm when rounds 6-12 will be selected.