Australia considering bid for 2023 FIBA World Cup

Could Australia host the 2023 FIBA World Cup? According to Basketball Australia CEO Anthony Moore, it is not outside the realm of possibility.

Anthony Moore and Andrej Lemanis | Credit: Damian Arsenis

Australia and indeed the Oceania region has never before hosted FIBA's premier showcase of men's basketball. With Australia’s record representation in the NBA, continued success in Europe, US College, and performing consistently at senior level for decades, the time may now be right for all that to change. Having been at the helm of Basketball Australia for almost two years, it was a sentiment shared by Moore.

"I have been in role since October 2014, fast approaching two years,” outlined Moore. “One of the key initial objectives was to ensure the organisation was better structured. Another was to define what, as a sporting organisation, should actually be done - what we should be doing moving forward.”

“Last year we sold out Rod Laver Arena for the first time in 15 years with the FIBA Oceania series. It was simply fantastic for our sport. It also crystallised that this is what we can do really well - putting national teams on the court in front of our home fans.”

“Any chance to stage an event to put our best players together – just like the farewell series against the Pac-12 All-Stars - that is what we do well. With that in mind, any opportunity to host a world event will definitely be investigated. I am excited about the potential to host the FIBA World Cup in 2023.”

Australia has been starved of elite-level international basketball for almost two decades, making do with the once every few years FIBA Oceania Championships. In fact Australia has not hosted a major FIBA world championships event since 1997 - the FIBA U22 World Championships which held in Melbourne. In that tournament, Australia took home gold behind the outstanding play of MVP Chris Anstey.

Australia's 1997 FIBA U22 World Champions

The last time FIBA held a World Championship event within the Oceania region was in 2009 when Auckland, New Zealand hosted the U19 World Championships for men (Australia finished fourth). With the bidding process recently announced by FIBA for the 2023 World Cup, it now enables joint hosting of an event. The potential that Basketball Australia could partner with their counterparts in New Zealand could prove to be a winning formula, as a joint venture would prove more compelling. Moore was open to the suggestion of exploring a joint bid with Basketball New Zealand.

“We have a great relationship with Basketball New Zealand and [their CEO] Iain Potter,” shared Moore. “One of our first phone calls would be with Ian to have a chat about that possibility. It is certainly something we would have a chat about.”

“We are the two largest and strongest nations in the Oceania region. New Zealand also have very strong connections with our South Pacific members who are likely to also be very supportive. Now that qualifying [for future World Cup’s] is done so in association with FIBA Asia, they would possibly also welcome our bid as we are in the region. Who knows? We may get some bipartisan support through the Asia region as well.”

Bidding for and hosting a World Cup however would not come cheaply and require significant collaboration and coordination. Moore advised that Basketball Australia was well-connected, with great relationships established with relevant areas of government.

“Looking at a major event like that, we would be looking to work with all levels of government,” explained Moore. “It would be such a critical component of any potential bid to work with a number of bodies, including the Office of Sport, and relevant areas of federal and state governments. We would go and talk with them for sure.”

Moore went on to explain that the new qualification system for the FIBA World Cup will be similar to the FIFA World Cup (soccer), resulting in more Boomers games being played in Australia and a chance to connect fans with the national team. However he believed that the long-term legacy of hosting a World Cup at home and within the Oceania region would be even greater.

“When talking to the commercial market and potential sponsors, it is really simple,” added Moore. “The Socceroos now play legitimate [FIFA] World Cup qualifying matches on a regular basis. Mid-2017 through to 2019, fans can expect to see the Boomers on court playing more regularly at home in much the same way. As an extension of that, we will look at making a bid for the [2023] World Cup.”

“Hosting a World Cup is almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. The wonderful opportunity these world events have in your home market is the legacy opportunity. We already have such a high participation rate across the country. We have such a significant basketball family playing on a regular basis, including coaches, referees, and many volunteering on a local level. This just showcases to the masses the power of basketball.”

“Here is an opportunity for us. We see what the football [2015 AFC] Asian Cup did, and the [2015] Cricket World Cup [jointly hosted with New Zealand]. The [2015] Netball World Cup, what it did for the netball community, was just phenomenal. These kinds of events can ignite the nation behind your national team, and we are thrilled to be in a position to look at that opportunity.”

Speaking with a clear passion about the sport, Moore took the time to remind that basketball was a global game, and was right up there with soccer if not ahead of it.

“One of the things we need to focus on continually is selling our message [in Australia],” expressed Moore. “An event like this [World Cup], reminds everyone that basketball is truly an international game. In fact there are more FIBA nations than football confederations around the word.”

Australia has a long list of successes in delivering world-class major sporting events. In hosting what has long been regarded as the best ever Olympic Games, the Australian Boomers finished fourth in Sydney 2000, while the Opals secured silver behind the USA at the same games. Moore was optimistic at this very early stage of being able to assemble the best basketballers in Australia, if not also New Zealand, in 2023, and was looking forward to starting the process.

“We will look at starting the evaluation process later in the month,” Moore shared. “Talking to the Victorian major events team, Tourism Australia and other relevant bodies will commence. It will then dovetail neatly into conversations with the government.”

While Australia is continually overlooked by the NBA to bring a game down under, the growth and excitement surrounding the sport continues to build. The revitalised NBL is slowly making ground in drawing back fans and stabilising the league, while the next-generation of stars led by Dante Exum and Ben Simmons are generating global interest. Should Australia secure the 2023 World Cup, it could well prove to be the Holy Grail for basketball in not only Australia, but the Oceania region.