The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks have confirmed to the National Basketball League that the franchise will not enter a team into the proposed modified competition format for 2020. With an announcement due early next week, Sharks Basketball's chairperson Nick Jeffrey and General Manager Jill Bolger provided the following update:
Firstly, on behalf of our Board and management we want to thank our outstanding team led by Coach Bevo, our community funders, sponsors and our incredible Sharks Fans for all their support over this crazy time. Your well wishes and commitment to the Sharks was immediate, unreserved and has meant so much. It also provided a great deal of confidence about the future.
As we have worked through the various options alongside the NBL, investigating a possible return to the court in 2020, some media reports have tended to suggest that this has been a "you're in or you're out" scenario. That has in fact, not been the case.
For the Sharks' Board, both things can be true. We are very supportive of the safe return of basketball, keen to see our players back out on court and desperate for live sport to return to our lives, but at the same time, like almost 100% of organisations in New Zealand right now, we have had to make a decision that is not just about five weeks in 2020, but more like five years from 2021 and beyond.
The key thing to understand is that all NBL franchises are in different situations in terms of ownership structure, resourcing and funding. We are a community team. We are here for and because of the Southland community and we are 100% owned by Southland Basketball. Our number one priority has been ensuring we make a decision that will set the Sharks up to get back to normal (whatever that looks like) for the 2021 Sal's NBL and to do all that we can for the sport at a community level in the south. For us, the 2020 model doesn't fit. But we are fully supportive of the mountain of work the NBL Board and management have put in to get players back to work.
As mentioned, the heartening thing for us has been the outstanding support we have seen from our management team and players who are already talking about 2021, along with our sponsors at all levels and our community funders.
Every one of them deserves our thanks, but we do want to mention our naming rights sponsor Southern Institute of Technology and our two outstanding community funders, Invercargill Licensing Trust and Community Trust South. All three have been with us since day one and all three have been absolutely fantastic since COVID-19 changed our worlds.
We have not taken that commitment and support lightly. In fact it has kept us focused on making a decision that recognises and respects their situations going forward by making sure we are using their investment wisely.
That has meant, for us at this time, sitting out the five weeks this year and setting ourselves for 2021, means we will be in the best place to continue to entertain and inspire you to be part of the Sharks' family and the great game and spectacle that is basketball into the future.
Thank you again and stay safe out there Sharks Fans!
Jill Bolger & Nick Jeffrey
General Manager & Chairperson