By Charles Mutebi
National Basketball League (Friday, YMCA)
Sharing v Diamonds
Falcons v City Oil
AFTER celebrating the rapid growth of the sport in recent years, leading voices in the elite Airtel National Basketball League (ANBL) are now grappling with the fall in match attendances this season and a seeming decline in the overall hype surrounding the game.
The 2014 ANBL season is over two months old but there is unrest over the new campaign’s failure to generate excitement even though games have actually been quite dramatic, with several upsets witnessed already.
ANBL team managers are wondering how it has all gone wrong, just when it seemed like everything was going right.
Last year saw historic success for the amateur sport, with live NBL matches being televised on national TV for the first time ever.
It was also last season that sport governing body FUBA appeared to have won the war against the National Council of Sports (NCS) and telecommunications giant MTN over the Lugogo Indoor Stadium.
Last year, FUBA also made remarkable strides on the national team front, setting up the Mohammed Santur led national team committee that has turned out to be a highly inspired move.
By the end of last season, basketball seemed to be heading to a brave new world, where sponsors would beg to be a part of the experience.
Crowds have been growing in the past years at all Basketball games. Photo by Michael Nsubuga
Yet with the exception of the national team committee, which is firmly on course to deliver ahead of September’s FIBA Afrobasket Zone V Qualifiers, the game has returned to its pre-TV days and the fans and sponsors appear to have been chased off.
Of course, the TV blackout is a direct result of the change in fortunes in the battle for Lugogo, where the NCS and MTN have bounced back to tactically push out the NBL on account of branding rights.
Without the indoor stadium, the notion of live NBL telecasts is largely improbable and without live telecasts, the NBL’s power to attract new fans and sponsors diminishes.
However, there are also questions about whether sport governing body FUBA are doing enough to promote the NBL brand.
FUBA president Ambrose Tashobya is still overwhelmingly popular but there have always been questions about how much time he has for federation matters.
Tashobya himself admits that “FUBA need a CEO”, someone whose day job is to run the sport.
Similarly, FUBA vice president in charge of publicity and marketing Ali Balunywa is increasingly coming under the spotlight, with many unhappy with his efforts.
Balunywa is a top marketing official for a giant national company and his duties there inevitably come at the expense of his voluntary service to FUBA.
NBL managers are now considering several options to reverse the slide in a sport that has enjoyed rapid growth over the last 15 years.
Mercifully, the highlights of the season are all still to come, namely the ANBL second round and playoffs, the FIBA Afrobasket Zone V Qualifiers and the Zone V club championships.