NBL eyes crowds with late 2020 start date

Callum Godde

The start of the NBL season has been pushed back to late 2020 as league owner Larry Kestelman eyes bums on seats.

On Friday, the NBL announced its 2020-21 campaign is set to tip-off on or near December 3 and finish in mid to late April.

Kestelman said the later than normal start date would give the competition better odds of having crowds in arenas as COVID-19 infection rates continue to ease in most states.

"We believe this gives us the best chance to be able to accommodate as many fans as possible into venues and gives some certainty for our clubs, players, sponsors, venues and fans as they plan for next season," he said.

Buoyed by some spectators being allowed to attend NRL and AFL matches, Kestelman will liaise with state authorities in a bid to secure similar arrangements.

"We are also heartened by the progress other sporting leagues have made as they have returned to play, in particular the easing of restrictions in some states to allow fans back into venues in a limited capacity," he said.

"We will continue to monitor their progress and work with the relevant government authorities as we plan for our season."

The tentative December start date means free agency won't begin until July 15, after the league reached an agreement with the players' association.

Pushing back the period gives players and clubs extra time to ponder their next move.

"This will allow players more time to prepare for free agency as they consider their futures," NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said.

"It will also allow extra time for clubs, including the Hawks who have transitioned to new owners over the past week and are currently finalising coaching and staffing arrangements."

The 2020 grand final series was cancelled in March when Sydney Kings decided not to travel back to Perth amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

The Kings were trialling 2-1 in the best-of-five series, with the NBL later crowning Perth Wildcats champions.