FRIDAY night’s game between the Sydney Uni Flames and Dandenong Rangers that ultimately decided this season’s championship reiterated just what a shame it is that there’s no television coverage of the Women’s National Basketball League.
The Flames defeated the Rangers 75-62 to win the best-of-three grand final series 2-0.
But with no television coverage of the competition for the second season in a row, to watch the grand final battle you had to do so through a live stream off the WNBL website or through Facebook.
This at a time when women’s sport is all the rage throughout Australia.
The inaugural AFL women’s competition, Women’s Big Bash League that included two games between the Melbourne Renegades and Hobart Hurricanes at the QEO in December and new Super Netball league have all proven big sporting hits with plenty of television exposure.
So why isn’t Australia’s premier women’s basketball competition able to attract the same interest from television networks?
The WNBL had previously been the domain of the ABC, which had been a broadcast partner of the competition for 35 years before the coverage was axed at the end of the 2014-15 season following Federal Government budget cuts.
The WNBL is a star-studded, high quality product among the top echelon of women’s basketball competitions in the world, as those who follow the Bendigo Spirit would attest.
And that’s what makes the cutting of the TV coverage over the past two years a sore point here in Bendigo – because it’s costing our national team the exposure that had previously come with the ABC partnership.
The cutting of the TV coverage has to have made WNBL clubs like the Spirit a less-attractive proposition for potential sponsors because they can no longer provide that exposure on national TV.
With no TV coverage, interest in the competition is going to wane – out of sight, out of mind – and puts more pressure on the clubs to find promotional ways to maintain a presence of significance in the crowded landscape of elite sport in Australia.
Our elite women’s national basketball competition deserves better than that.
Hopefully, when the 2017-18 season tips off in October a new TV deal will have been struck and the WNBL is back on the air – perhaps with Bendigo in the first game.
Luke West – sports reporter