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SBD Global/May 16, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Hangin' With ... National Basketball League CEO Fraser Neill

NBL CEO Fraser Neill has tried to increase fan interest by playing in more intimate venues.
FRASER NEILL is the CEO of Australia's National Basketball League. Neill previously held senior management positions with the Australian Jockey Club, New South Wales Rugby Union and the Int'l Rugby Board. Neill was the CEO of NSW rugby from '04-07. Neill was the tournaments director for the IRB and was responsible for establishing the world Rugby Sevens Series and facilitating delivery of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. After several years in the private sector, Neill returned to sport with the goal of steering the NBL into the next phase of its 35-year history.

On what he can take from his position at NSW that can help him as head of the NBL ...
Neill: A key aspect of my sports management career has been change management. I have always been drawn to getting involved with entities that have potential, but need to go through change in order to realize that change. Basketball is certainly in that position. It has great potential to grow. The experience at NSW was in an extremely competitive sports market and provided great experience in the need to push the boundaries in order to stay ahead.

On where basketball fits into the Australian landscape, and the strategy to build its popularity with the country’s youth ...
Neill: Basketball ranks in the top two participation sports throughout Australia with both the Australian men's and women's teams competing strongly at the international level. The NBL's strategy is to improve its accessibility across Australia and New Zealand. This will be facilitated through a number of ways, including increasing the number of teams, increasing the number of games and having games played at more accessible venues. We are also looking at how we can make the games more accessible via different broadcast mediums.

On the NBL's expansion plan, which includes taking games to smaller venues ...
Neill: We've identified a great opportunity to be able to take the game to the people. The football codes in Australia are somewhat restricted by requiring large stadiums that can accommodate the field size and corresponding stands. Also their athlete recovery times are longer due the the nature of the game. Basketball players can back up for games much quicker and therefore we believe we are in a position to play more games during the season. This results in our business plan being based more on having more games across more venues. Firstly, we see this as positive in having greater content available for broadcast. Additionally this will result in easier access to games on a geographic basis and playing more games in smaller venues will mean that more people will have access to premium seating closer to the action.

On what sport or activity he enjoys during the offseason ...
Neill: I enjoy golf. The great thing about it is that the accountability and results all sits with you if you have a good round or a bad round -- the result is in your hands.
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