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Exclusive: BA Chair Reveals Tokyo Olympics Plans

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n an exclusive interview with Ministry of Sport, Basketball Australia (BA) chair, Ned Coten, discussed the organisations preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in July.

After the recent resignation of BA CEO, Jerril Rechter, Coten discussed the role Rechter played in preparing the organisation for the Olympics before her departure and the importance of having a new permanent CEO in place prior to the start of the Games.

“We’ve got really good plans in place, and one of the things Jerril Rechter did incredibly well was develop our new strategic plan, which will be launched soon,” Coten told Ministry of Sport.

“We also have really strong policies and procedures in place around ensuring everything’s prepared for the Olympics.

“Our Reconciliation Action Plan, diversity and inclusion and all of that underlying foundation of structure is there.

“On the surface it may not seem like those things are important for the sport, but they’re absolutely critical to ensure we have a strong foundation and the athletes in particular see those as being really valuable.

“Change is always challenging on a number of fronts, but Jerril has left the organisation in incredibly good shape, and I think we’re well prepared.

“It’s quite possible there will be other changes to occur between now and the Olympics because of Coronavirus and we just have to be prepared for those changes when they come and we’re ready for it.

“Basketball Australia is preparing to recruit a new CEO.

“We’ve had a number of agencies reach out to assist us with that and we’re going through that process this week of finalising an agency to work with.

“We expect to have advertising in the market very shortly and our new CEO in place before Tokyo 2020.

“We feel it’s important to have that so this person can help lead the organisation, not just through that, but all the benefits that will come from that.

“We’re very hopeful of winning medals in all of the categories we’re competing in and we want to be able to make the most of that.

“Having the new CEO in place at that time is important.

“We also have our AGM (Annual General Meeting) coming up in May, we have a couple new directors joining the board, and a new strategic plan to be implemented.

“It’s a really exciting time; we’ve got some great people in the business and we will bring some more people in to support us going forward.

“We’re looking forward to a great Olympics and Paralympics and hoping Australia can bring home some medals of the right colour,” he said.

Talking about the challenges surrounding the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics, Coten said BA’s strategy in preparation for the Games has been largely affect thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The most difficult thing has been Coronavirus and the circumstances around it and, firstly, the uncertainty around the event itself, but then around the logistics of the event,” Coten said.

“Ensuring our teams can train together before we get to Tokyo is important, that we can be in the same place, and we’re currently looking at playing in other countries.

“It’s certainly been difficult and that’s one of the biggest challenges.

“Athletes in Australia and the rest of the world in professional basketball leagues have had their seasons changed and that’s had an effect on the ability of the players to prepare and be available.

“With the men for example, the NBA season has changed and it’s likely some athletes from other countries might not be available because of the NBA season.

“All of the Australian athletes have been incredibly committed.

“For the Paralympics, the same issues arise, and these things have made it really difficult, and I really feel for the organising committee in Tokyo because they’ve had so much work to do.

“They had such a fantastic plan in place that was blown out of the water because of COVID,” he said.

Looking into how BA’s finances have been affected in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics, Coten said the organisation is still bracing for more financial pressure due to COVID-19.

“Basketball Australia has a substantial amount of money coming from funding from the Federal Government by Sport Australia, and Sport Australia have been incredibly supportive of all sports.

“Basketball Australia hasn’t had additional funding compared to other sports, but we’ve certainly had the ability to utilise our funding while we’ve been in these circumstances in different ways then we might have done.

“There’s no question the finances of any sport have been impacted, and we’ve been in a fortunate situation where we’ve been able to mitigate some of those risks at our end.

“As a general overview, our finances are in good condition, but we will be challenged because the Olympics and Paralympics will be more expensive than we thought.

“We think there will be commercial opportunities for us to get back some of that revenue, but we aren’t going to get all of it back.

“We’ve been fortunate over the last four or five years to build the reserves of Basketball Australia to ensure we can get through a situation like this.

“The finances remain in good condition, but they will continue to be under pressure while COVID exists,” he said.

When asked what the impact of a ‘home’ Olympic Games would be for Basketball Australia if Brisbane was awarded the rights to host the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Coten said: “As we lead up to 2032, it’s an incredibly exciting time for Australian sport, and it will bring amazing opportunities for not just Olympic sport, but all sport.”

“For basketball, it will mean we will have the opportunity to bid on world events we hope will be well supported as Australia prepares itself to go into the potential for the 2032 Games in Brisbane.

“It will be a massive opportunity for basketball, we would have many of the world’s leading teams come here and we know if we could get the top four or six teams in the world to come to Australia, there’s a massive commercial opportunity behind that.

“We did it a couple of years ago where we saw over 100,000 people watch basketball at Marvel Stadium and that was incredibly exciting.

“We’re hoping to replicate that in the lead up to 2032.

“We’ve got the FIBA Women’s World Cup next year, which will be a great event, and we will have the opportunity to look at other events in the lead up to 2032.

“The technology is so different now, even than it was in the last Olympic cycle, and that means broadcast and also the digital opportunities we have are significantly better and different,” he said.

Expanding on the impact the hosting of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2022, Coten said: “It will prove Australia is in a position to host world championships and events and do it incredibly well.”

“Australia is seen on the global scale as having a great track record delivering international events and our event next year will be one of those.

“We’ve got a local organising committee really advanced in its planning, and we’ve got a great board overseeing that management team led by some very experienced people.

“It proves Australia can hold these events.

“The fact we put on a great Games in Sydney in 2000 as well, the memories of the IOC definitely go back that far, and Australia has done amazing since then as well,” Coten told Ministry of Sport.