A few days ago, the ABC reported that the UC Capitals’ basketball team had effectively been left ‘homeless’ with no location to play their finals game in ACT.
BroadAgenda editor, Ginger Gorman, had a chat with Lucille Bailie, General Manager of the UC Capitals about how this unfolded – and why the situation is impacted by gender. Lucille was a player with UC Caps 2001/02 to 2003/04 including Captain 2002/03 and 2003/04)
BroadAgenda has a national and growing international audience. So for people who don’t know who the Capitals are (not anyone in Canberra, of course!), tell us a bit about the team.
The UC Capitals are proud to be our city’s most successful national sports team. The team competes in the Women’s National Basketball League and have won a league-leading nine championship titles. We’re trailblazers locally and nationally, resetting expectations in the delivery and engagement with women’s sport. The business that underpins the Capitals goes from strength to strength each year and our short term goal is to deliver a fully professional basketball program, with increased revenue through a range of business areas supporting a full time squad of athletes and staff.
We’ve been reading the UC Capitals have been left homeless for finals games this season. How did this (frankly bonkers) situation unfold?
After winning our 9th WNBL Championship in March 2019 at the AIS Arena in front of around 5,000 supporters, we received an email from the Australian Sports Commission to advise that the Arena would no longer be available to us, or other users such as netball and entertainment events.
You’ve previously played at venues like Canberra’s National Conventional Centre Canberra and the Australian Institute of Sport. Why can’t you use those venues again? Where will you have to go instead?
The Caps play matches at the NCCC throughout the regular season but with increased match day attendances year on year and finals matches that attract 5,000 supporters, the Caps have effectively outgrown the venue.
Finals matches – as our supporters and the CBR community know – are the highlight of the season and when we’re talented enough to make the finals (which we do make a habit of doing!), we need and want to showcase our team, our sport and our incredibly talented athletes to as big an audience as possible. Playing in finals also represents a unique financial opportunity for our organisation, given the increased interest in our product and match day experience, so it’s a major double whammy when we miss the financial benefits finals presents our organisation and this stalls our business growth in another way.
It is likely that most finals games in the current season will need to be relocated to Wollongong due to a lack of availability at the NCCC and the lack of any other suitable venue in the ACT.
Given this is the capital city of Australia, how do you reflect on this situation? Can you imagine this happening to an elite women’s team in Beijing or London, for example?
The CBR community, Government, Corporate and Sports sectors are all incredibly supportive and engaged in our great program – we see that in the growth and engagement in the Caps experience be it on match day, online, in the community, in sponsorships. We know this city understands that we’re delivering world class basketball and our athletes are wonderful sportspeople and valuable community members. The support for the team is incredibly evident and making the team as accessible to as many people as possible is a positive part of both ours and the Government’s remit, so there’s a major gap in facilities that needs to be addressed to ensure the Caps and the Government can continue to facilitate all the great work for the CBR community.
What impacts is this having on things like: future recruitment efforts, team morale and income streams?
We know Canberra is a basketball city and the Capitals are one of our biggest success stories. But having to deal with the constant uncertainty around venue availability is tough. The Capitals are being held back by inaction at every level and it is at the point where it is starting to impact our financial viability, not to mention the flow-on effects this creates. We have spent decades building up a dedicated fan base and while we can continue to deliver them all the talent and adrenalin and magic they love, we can’t always do it at home, which is devasting for Capitals players and fans.”
Have you ever hear of a predicament like this happening to any male sports teams?
No, we’re not aware of similar predicaments for other sports teams. This is a major threat to the UC Caps and the momentum created over many years. The city’s most successful national sporting team have been left with no “home” and the ACT’s top female elite basketballers are scrabbling for space only to be forced from the ACT for crucial games.
Flow-on effects from the mishandling of this issue could be felt for years across women’s basketball and are already having a very real financial impact on the team. With every game played outside the ACT, the Capitals miss a vital opportunity to earn revenue and showcase female elite sporting success.
More broadly, the success of the UC Caps and the thrill and entertainment of each season has the ability switch on kids to the game from a very young age and vitally, this shows girls that team sports are cool, that women can be physical and powerful, and you can make a career out of the game you love.
How the Capitals have managed to stay at the top of the ladder while surviving on the crumbs of infrastructure in their hometown is testament to their grit, talent and loyalty, but this ongoing uncertainty threatens the team’s future ability to market itself for new players, fans and sponsors.
I understand there may be plans to build a suitable venue for the Capitals and other elite teams to play at the University of Canberra. What can you tell me about that?
A new arena is part of the University of Canberra’s masterplan – the organisation needs ACT and Federal Government engagement and support to make it happen. A dedicated playing and training venue at UC would be perfect.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
We know Canberra is a basketball city and the Capitals are one of our biggest success stories. But having to deal with the constant uncertainty around venue availability is tough. The Capitals are being held back by inaction at every level and it is at the point where it is starting to impact our financial viability, not to mention the flow-on effects this creates.
We have spent decades building up a dedicated fan base and while we can continue to deliver them all the talent and adrenalin and magic they love, we can’t always do it at home, which is devasting for Capitals players and fans.
Find out more about the Capitals here.
- Feature image: UC Caps vs Melbourne. Kelly Wilson in action. Picture: Supplied/Davey Barber.
Ginger Gorman is a fearless and multi award-winning social justice journalist and feminist. Ginger’s bestselling book, Troll Hunting, came out in 2019. Since then, she’s been in demand both nationally and globally as an expert on cyberhate and the real-life harm predator trolling can do. She's also the editor of BroadAgenda and gender editor at HerCanberra. Ginger hosts the popular "Seriously Social" podcast for the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Follow her on Twitter.