The Sal’s NBL has terminated the Supercity Rangers from the league, effective immediately.
During the league’s recent review of the team and its operations, the Rangers were found to have breached a number of rules under the Participation Agreement.
The most material breach was the Supercity Rangers not being financial with the NBL, with outstanding debts owed to the league, including the full annual fees for the recently completed 2019 season. This was the catalyst for the termination.
The Rangers had one year remaining on its Participation Agreement, which has now been terminated. The team will no longer compete in the Sal’s NBL.
“The review into the Supercity Rangers has been thorough. The review uncovered a number of breaches that has led to this termination, not least of which is a large debt owed to the league,” said NBL GM, Justin Nelson.
“Unfortunately the Rangers have missed every deadline issued for payments owed to the league and have made no proactive moves to settle this debt.
"We are aware of other debts, but these are up to the Rangers to deal with and we hope they will."
Nelson stressed the decision to terminate the Rangers was based on material breaches of the Participation Agreement, however a number of other factors were considered based on the overall performance of the organisation.
“Non-payment of fees is a material breach and has led to the termination, however we were equally concerned about the franchise not performing to the level expected to participate in the league,” said Nelson, adding “this extends to performance both on and off the court.
“We are raising the bar, this is a great competition and season 2019 has seen many positive advancements, and upholding the rules and regulations that govern the competition has been one of them.”
Nelson confirmed the review had started prior to the conclusion of the 2019 season, citing missed deadlines for league payments and late payments to players as concerning issues that raised red flags.
Through the review, which included looking into the much publicised pay dispute between some players and the club, the league has moved to introduce standard player agreements in 2020 for paid players or those with an amateur status, with it being compulsory for all agreements to be lodged with the league.
The agreements will also factor in the community coaching many players do during the season.
“Player agreements and professional management of those agreements need to meet the expectations of athletes and sport in the modern era. The review into the Supercity Rangers uncovered a number of flaws that the NBL hasn’t dealt with previously,” said Nelson.
“The benefit of a review like this, albeit from an undesirable situation, is that we learn, we adapt, and we improve.”
With the termination of the Rangers now finalised, the NBL will commence planning for a nine-team league in season 2020, which may expand to 10 teams in 2021 if the Franklin Bulls from South Auckland finalise certain criteria to commence.
The Otago Nuggets have been granted provisional entry for 2020 pending some final hurdles, which the league hopes will be finalised this Wednesday. If not, the Nuggets will build towards a 2021 entry.
Nelson indicated there was a strong desire to get a future franchise back in central or north Auckland, but it would be done carefully and with a view to long-term sustainability and success.
“Ideally we want two teams in Auckland, we want a rivalry and to have games played there weekly,” said Nelson.
"Personally I thought it was poor to read the Rangers last week publicly saying Auckland didn't deserve a NBL team. From where I sit Auckland deserves a better NBL operation to deliver a better product than what they have had.
"To suggest Auckland doesn't deserve elite level basketball was an ill-judged comment by the Rangers. People attend a sporting event to be entertained by a good product, and perhaps the lack of interest is a reflection on what was being offered.
“For whatever reason the Rangers have not captured the support of the Auckland market and we need to take stock of that, engage with the community and help deliver a better product that will capture their interest.
“We know the Auckland community loves the game, they are playing it in record numbers.
"Taking a step back in order to take two steps forward is the right thing to do. Auckland is very important to us and we have to get it right.
“A number of possible owners and opportunities have contacted the league in recent weeks, so we’ll set up some meetings and see where it takes us. There is a genuine feeling of growth and excitement in the NBL and I have no doubt Auckland will be back amongst it all in the very near future.”
The NBL will hold its annual Franchise meeting this weekend in Wellington where a raft of new initiatives for season 2020 will be discussed.