NBL boss loath to lose regional sides

BASKETBALL

As much as the NBL would love to see more capital-city teams in the competition, it doesn't want to lose its identity in regional areas like Wollongong.

The Hawks have battled to make ends meet throughout the club's 35-year existence, operating well under the league's million-dollar salary cap when it comes to assembling a team every season.

Last week NBL boss Fraser Neill spoke about his desire to expand the eight-team competition in 2015-16, but not at the expense of smaller clubs.

"We want to bring in new teams, [but] that's worthless if we're losing old teams out the back. Retaining the current eight is imperative on that front," Neill said.

"We've been down to Tasmania, we've been to the east of Melbourne, we were in Canberra [last] week and we're going to New Zealand and Brisbane in the next couple of weeks to get things moving.

"It's not just about expansion, it's about the viability and sustainability in the terms that we've got enough matches and got enough interest."

Neill said the NBL had been working closely with the Hawks and the Townsville Crocodiles, another small-town club.

"Before you can help someone you actually need to look at how their business operates," he said.

"We've been going through the numbers trying to work out where the gaps are, and certainly in the case of Wollongong we've actually employed a consultant who set up the GWS Giants and put together the business model for the Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League.

"We're talking with Townsville and hoping to meet with them in the next couple of weeks to look at their business models."

Neill said the league was also considering the pros and cons of introducing a marquee player system, similar to the A-League.

"That's absolutely on the agenda. I wouldn't be surprised if that came through," he said.

"I've had the big clubs, as you may refer to them as, absolutely want to have it happen because it'll put bums on seats.

"Interestingly, the smaller regional clubs feel it's a real positive because when those marquee players come to town they'll be a real attraction for people and they'll actually set themselves up to beat the rock stars.

"I'm pretty confident we'll get there on that one."

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