Basketball Australia announces sale of majority stake in WNBL

May 15, 2024
Basketball Australia (BA) announced plans Monday to sell a majority stake in Australia’s Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). The sale of the stake — which could be worth at least $13.2M — would give the women’s pro league the tools to level up its game in a way its current governing structure can’t support.
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Basketball Australia announces sale of majority stake in WNBL
Source: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

The GIST: Basketball Australia (BA) announced plans Monday to sell a majority stake in Australia’s Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). The sale of the stake — which could be worth at least $13.2M — would give the women’s pro league the tools to level up its game in a way its current governing structure can’t support.

The league: Founded in 1981, the WNBL is Australia’s premier women’s basketball league and a popular offseason choice for WNBA players. Its eight teams play a 24-game season from November to March. Like the W, the WNBL saw impressive growth across several key areas in 2023, including a 30% regular season attendance jump from pre-pandemic numbers.

  • Following last season, club membership — which provides priority ticketing and exclusive content — is up 69% YoY, with audience reach increasing 29% YoY. But the WNBL is still playing catch-up: the league can only accommodate about 80 players (compared to the WNBA’s 144) and its estimated minimum wage is about $15K.

The details: BA exec Matt Scriven began advertising a 70% stake in the league, with WNBL valuation estimated around $20M for the entire league. The org previously stated its intentions to make the WNBL its own independent entity by announcing interest in equity partners in April.

  • Although WNBL interest is rising, it has struggled to profit because BA hasn’t been able to invest in the league. That’s normal for a national sporting organization not designed to financially support a full sports league, and it was the same case for the Australian men’s league (NBL) until Australian billionaire Larry Kestelman bought it in 2015.

The structure: The WNBL plans on creating a new entity called LeaguesCo and using the influx of capital on expanding in new markets, improving operations, and luring high-profile players Down Under. The plan mirrors what UK women’s soccer has undergone through the creation of NewCo, the new independent entity that governs its top two leagues.

The moment: Finding new investment will allow the WNBL to level up its game, and it doesn’t need to be the next WNBA to be successful. There’s an entire ecosystem of men’s European pro basketball that’s been fiscally viable, so learning from these leagues and English women’s soccer should be a recipe for success. Good on ya.

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