IT is already a season that is unlike any other before a ball is tipped. For the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), the 2020 season will be known as the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown to mark an unusual set of events that has seen the global pandemic suspend and alter the competition. The NZNBL had found a way to keep the season alive in a new modified format, and now Sal’s NBL Showdown will also feature the most important element of any sporting event for professionals – fans.
NZNBL General Manager Justin Nelson told the NZNBL website that he was “thrilled” that fans of the seven teams would be allowed to attend the six-week competition.
“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,” he said. “I’m thrilled they will get to see 28 nights of great basketball featuring players from across the country.”
Whilst some might be tempted to see the season reverting back to a regular home and away format, Nelson said it would not be possible despite the lowering to Level 1 restrictions by the New Zealand Government this week. Instead, he said it would be more risky for clubs if they had to pay for all the additional costs that come with playing in multiple areas across the country over a longer season.
“We’ve just had ten weeks of lockdown,” Nelson said to the NZNBL website. “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.”
As for the dubbed name of ‘Sal’s NBL Showdown’, NZNBL Chair Iain Potter said it was very fitting given the circumstances of the season.
“Over the last couple of years the League has grown incredibly well,” he said. “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.”