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University of Canberra seeks control of Capitals basketball franchise

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Phillip Thomson, Jon Tuxworth

The ACT Brumbies will move into a $15 million high-performance centre at the University of Canberra next year.

The ACT Brumbies will move into a $15 million high-performance centre at the University of Canberra next year. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The University of Canberra is confident Basketball ACT will hand over control of the Canberra Capitals licence after the WNBL season, in a significant step towards creating a multimillion-dollar sporting hub the university hopes will be the best in the country.

But Basketball ACT wants to retain some influence over the Capitals' operations and believe its members should have a say on the future of the Women's National Basketball League side.

The University of Canberra has also held advanced discussions with W-League soccer's Canberra United about moving to the campus.

The ACT Brumbies will move into a $15 million high-performance centre at the university next year, but it is understood that up to half a dozen sports could join them.

Vice-chancellor Stephen Parker said the boards of Basketball ACT and the university supported the licence transfer, which would involve Basketball ACT cancelling its licence but continuing to run the game at club level.

The university is looking at the financial details of running a sporting team in an elite national competition run by the WNBL, but the approximate dollar figures the institution has been working with will not be made public.

Parker said he wanted the institution to be known as Australia's leading sports university, and said the licence transfer would probably mean the team would be known as the University of Canberra Capitals.

''It just adds to the momentum,'' said Parker, who has long wanted a US-type system, under which the university and sports team would be more intertwined.

He referred to the sponsorship announcement this week involving Big Bash League cricket team Sydney Thunder, as well as the financial backing of the Canberra United soccer side, and the front-of-shirt sponsorship deal with the Brumbies, which will have the rugby union team increasingly operate on the campus.

Parker said $1 million from the ACT government would be used to upgrade an existing field at the campus to create the Brumbies' No.1 training ground.

Under the deal, the Capitals' headquarters would be moved from west Belconnen to the university and the players would be offered more flexible study opportunities and use of campus facilities.

Capitals players would train at the university but would likely play matches at the Australian Institute of Sport until a large enough basketball stadium could be built at the university.

Capitals coach Carrie Graf became the university's first coach-in-residence at the start of this year.

''It [the transfer] is all consensual - there's no tension,'' Parker said. ''It's looking very promising.''

With seven championships, the Capitals are the WNBL's most successful team, and Basketball ACT chief executive Tony Jackson says that knowledge should be used by the University of Canberra should it assume the licence. ''There's still a lot of discussions to work out; the Capitals have been owned and operated by Basketball ACT for more than 30 years,'' Jackson said.

''There could be shared services and staff across Basketball ACT and the university, it would free up capacity for us to concentrate on community aspects of the sport.

''From [the university's] point of view, they would be reliant on that [our input] because of the historical expertise Basketball ACT has in running a WNBL franchise.

''If the licence was to transfer, most definitely the members should be involved in that [decision].

''From a training perspective, [it's attractive] to get a holistic environment, where everything's there at the one place.''

Capital Football chief executive officer Heather Reid said it would continue talks with the university.

''The board has given in-principle approval to have a closer look at what their proposal might be,'' Reid said.

''We'd look at having a centre of excellence for football and futsal, our development programs, and Canberra United having it as their major training base.

''Their plans are interesting and potentially exciting, but the devil is in the detail.''

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