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2020 NBL1 season facing uncertainty as South teams withdraw
The NBL1 season is in flux right now, with teams withdrawing from the 2020 South conference season and more expected do the same.
With the NBL1 season having already been postponed until at least May 15 for all three conferences due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus), both Geelong and Ballarat have formally withdrawn for the 2020 season on Thursday, and they are not expected to be alone. The Pick and Roll believes that other clubs including Dandenong, Ringwood and Sandringham are set to announce their formal withdrawal in coming days.
UPDATE: since publishing, The Pick and Roll has also learned that several NBL1 North conference clubs are preparing to also announce their withdrawal from the 2020 season.
In a statement released by Geelong United, CEO Mark Neeld was short and succinct in explaining the Supercats position.
"Geelong United Basketball and the Geelong Supercats, with guidance from many key stakeholders including Basketball Victoria and other Victorian Basketball Associations, have come to this difficult decision in the best interests of the physical and well-being of all athletes, members, supporters, staff, volunteers and match officials during this unprecedented global health pandemic caused by COVID-19.
"Over coming the upcoming weeks and months, we will be prioritising working extremely closely with our eighteen member clubs to ensure that we re-establish the sport of basketball within our community from the grass roots level up.
It was a similar theme shared by Basketball Ballarat CEO Peter Eddy in announcing that his Association would not be participating in the 2020 NBL1 South season should it proceed.
"The NBL1 competition is at the pinnacle of our regional athlete pathway and this difficult decision has already been made by other member Associations to ensure we are all viable for all local club and member programs and competitions immediately when we are through the current emergency.
"We assure you that we are already planning for how to provide the best possible grassroots program for the thousands of junior and senior local players and their families who rely on us to provide the sport that we all love. This will flow back into our elite level senior NBL1 programs from 2021 when we will fully resume our full pathway for all athletes, coaches and officials.
"As a club with a rich heritage spanning generations, we have faced many challenges before and through working together, supporting our members and sponsors, and focusing on remaining viable to get our generations of participants back on court we want to provide confidence that our focus is in the right place."
NBL1 Central was scheduled to start on March 14, NBL1 South on April 18 and NBL1 North on April 24, but all three conferences were postponed to start no earlier than May 15.
"The health and welfare of players, staff, officials and fans is our number one priority," outlined NBL Chief Operating Officer Andy Crook. "These are obviously challenging times for everyone and we will continue to monitor the situation along with the state associations and assess all of our options.
"We hope to be able to be in a position to still play this season but we will be guided by the relevant health authorities and provide regular updates."
With all Basketball Victoria sanctioned events postponed or cancelled, basketball associations and clubs are doing it tough due to income streams ceasing, with many being forced to stand staff down, including Dandenong who have taken such action already with up to 40 jobs impacted. Similar situations are likely to occur over coming days at other clubs across the country.
The Pick and Roll has also learned that NBL1 South teams Mount Gambier, Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga have all released their imports, understanding that they are unlikely to be the only ones to have taken such action. With teams strapped for revenue given the current lock down, the viability of the NBL1 South season, and possibly the Central and North conferences too, are now in question.
With Tasmania featured in the South conference, the tough new travel restrictions initiated by the Tasmanian state government that includes a 14-day quarantine for all "non-essential" travellers also impacts the league hard. With the Australian Government Department of Health also suggesting the COVID-19 threat in Australia may last up to 6 months, the 2020 NBL1 season for all three conferences could be facing risk. Watch this space.