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.
Dutch national team Mananger LOUIS VAN GAAL will not be formally announced as ManU’s new manager "until early next week," according to James Ducker of the LONDON TIMES. It "was anticipated that confirmation" of Van Gaal as David Moyes’s successor at Old Trafford would come Thursday or Friday.
RYAN GIGGS has accepted a role as the Dutchman’s No. 2, "although the futures of other members of the club’s revered Class of 92 are less clear cut and are expected to be resolved in the next 24 hours" (LONDON TIMES, 5/15). In London, Mark Ogden wrote with only minor contractual issues still to be signed off, "both United and Van Gaal have opted to shelve plans." With Van Gaal "keen to avoid distractions in the build-up to Saturday’s friendly at the Amsterdam ArenA" -- and also avoid accusations of focusing on United at the expense of his job with the Dutch -- ManU is "happy to wait until next week to finalise the deal with the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach." The future of ManU’s current coaching team "remains unclear, however." PAUL SCHOLES "is understood to be holding talks with United," with PHIL NEVILLE and CHRIS WOODS expected to leave the club (TELEGRAPH, 5/15).
League Championship club Leeds United has appointed former Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Bradford City forward BENITO CARBONE "as a consultant." The 42-year-old Italian "will be involved in football and technical operations" with the first team and the academy side (BBC, 5/15). ... The NBA has named MAIK MATISCHAK senior director, communications for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Matischak will be based in the NBA's EMEA headquarters in London and report to NBA VP, Marketing/Communications JENE ELZIE. Matischak comes to the NBA from Advanced Micro Devices (NBA). ... Bundesliga side FSV Mainz 05 appointed Danish coach KASPER HJULMAND "on a three-year contract" to replace THOMAS TUCHEL, "who surprisingly stepped down last week." Hjulmand will be "officially presented" on Monday (REUTERS, 5/15).
The head of UEFA's Financial Fair Play investigatory chamber "has died." Former Belgian PM JEAN-LUC DEHAENE has "reportedly passed away after a fall in France aged 73." Dehaene "would have been the person to sign off any settlement agreement" with Man City, which has been investigated for a breach of FFP rules (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 5/15). ... The Vietnam Football Federation has appointed "a relative unknown as their national team head coach." TOSHIYA MIURA "signed a two-year contract to manage the Golden Stars that includes a monthly salary" of $12,000 (PHNOM PENH POST, 5/14). ... Controversial Australian Football League Footy Show host SAM NEWMAN "has again been slammed for making homophobic comments" after he accused NFL player MICHAEL SAM of an "annoyingly gratuitous act" by kissing his boyfriend on TV. Co-hosts GARRY LYON and JAMES BRAYSHAW told the 68-year-old that he was "homophobic" and "off the pace" (THE AGE, 5/15).
La Liga side Levante's DAVID BARRAL: "Soma'da hayatını kaybeden madencilerin ailelerine başsağlığı ve sabır diliyorum. Acınızı paylaşıyorum. #Soma #PrayForTurkey" ("Condolences to the families of the miners who lost their lives in Soma. I share their pain. #Soma #PrayForTurkey")
Barcelona's JORDI ALBA: "Gràcies per tot capità! #CapitàPuyol Gracias por todo capitán! @Carles5puyol #CapitánPuyol Thanks for all captain!"
Barcelona's DANIEL ALVES: "Hoy es el día de nuestro capitán y solo queria dar las gracias por ser un grande ejemplo para todos…" ("Today is our captain's day and I just wanted to thank him for being a great example for everyone...")