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Vlahov holding court

PAY television will provide the financial future of sport, says Perth Wildcats co-owner Andrew Vlahov.

Sports such as basketball and first class cricket will not receive any live free-to-air coverage on commercial stations. The ABC holds the television rights to National Basketball League games.

Soccer and cricket matches are narrowcast through Channel 7’s pay TV arm C7, which is not available in WA.

An extension of that service into WA could provide a live coverage option. Internet streaming provides another.

Mr Vlahov said many Wildcats fans missed coverage of the game.

He believes pay-per-view coverage is the solution to the problem.

“You’d get about 10,000 households throughout WA – both in the city and the country – logging on to the coverage,” he said.

Mr Vlahov believes the advent of digital television will improve pay TV options.

“Digital TV production costs are about one eighth those of free-to-air,” he said.

“With digital TV you’ll be able to condense a basketball game down from 90 minutes to about an hour. That can be done on free-to-air television but the equipment required is very expensive.

“Television is becoming about segmentation and niching. We have a segment of fans that would rather watch basketball than soccer or cricket.”

Mr Vlahov and his Australian Boomers team-mate Luc Longley bought a 75 per cent share of the Wildcats in 1999.

“Luc and I saw it as an avenue to have input into basketball in WA,” he said.

“I didn’t feel the club was going in the right direction. It had become too professional – too remote from the fans.

“I want the Wildcats to become a club for the people.”

That approach has helped improve attendance at Wildcats home matches.

Part of the “club for the people” move caused the Wildcats to set up Wildcat Zone – a pay-per-use development program for young basketballers.

The program runs as a separate business to the Wildcats and has gone from nothing to a slight profit in 12 months.

Mr Vlahov, who has been playing basketball for the past 20 years, said he created a unique situation by becoming both owner and player.

“It’s never been done before so I had no precedents to learn from,” he said.

“I was able to do it because I had the support of the team. They supported the direction I wanted to take the club in.”

The Wildcats have made the finals for the past 15 years and won four championships, the most recent this year.

“On and off the court we’ve made enormous strides but we started from a long way back, Mr Vlahov said.

“I think we’re one second tier sponsor and a couple of minor sponsors short of making it all work.”

He said winning the championship this year had been a fillip for the club’s finances.

“It’s a big thing about how the rest of the competition views us.

“The standards set by both the players and administration become that little bit higher.”

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