WHILE basketball is not enjoying the high profile it once had, Wildcats co-owner Andrew Vlahov is content with his club’s on and off-field successes.
In the four years he and Luc Longley have owned the franchise the club has finished first, second, third and third in the national league – a better return than Perth’s two Australian Football League sides.
It has also gone from having a $1.2 million operating loss to being close to break even.
Mr Vlahov is confident the club will at least break even next year and could even finish in the black.
The National Basketball League is also on the verge of tapping in to the potentially lucrative Asian market.
Not a bad result for a sport that has limited, if any, free-to-air television coverage.
Of course, the Wildcats have had to tighten their belts and give up their home court at the Perth Entertainment Centre for more humble digs at Challenge Stadium.
Back in the early 1990s the situation was completely different. Basketball was rivalling AFL and other sports in terms of television coverage and basketball hoops sporting Wildcats logos were visible in many Perth driveways.
Mr Vlahov said that glory period had come when the sport was going through a particularly strong growth phase.
Now, he said, technologies such as the Internet and pay television offered other options for basketball if it could not gain free to air TV coverage.
The NBL recently signed a $4 million TV rights deal with Foxtel.
“The top three sports, being AFL, cricket and rugby have also gone down that route. Rugby league is moving more into pay TV and so is the AFL,” Mr Vlahov said.
He said the NBL was taking some positive steps towards ensuring its long-term viability.
Mr Vlahov chairs the league’s strategic review committee, designed to help it plan for the future.
“We want all clubs to be at break-even point. We’re looking to push into Asia. Adding teams from Asia could be inevitable,” he said.
With the future of basketball looking a little brighter and success seeming to come the Wildcats’ way, how does a former player turned owner deal with players asking for more money?
Mr Vlahov said he believed in sharing the spoils of a club’s good fortune with the players.
“However, players need to understand that if the club is losing money they need to accept that,” he said.
“I find the more educated the players are about a club’s financial position, the better decisions they will make.”
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