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Stopped and ready to go

/ 05:10 AM September 18, 2020

The PBA’s plan for restarting its season is final: A compressed Philippine Cup will be played at Angeles University Foundation starting on Oct. 9, while an estimated 350 delegates—from the league’s 12 teams, key staff members of the league and a few members of the press—will be quartered at Quest Hotel.

The only thing missing is a go signal from the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to proceed.

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“I think the only reason we’d be pushed back is if we don’t get the approval from the IATF,” league chair Ricky Vargas told the Inquirer on Thursday after a virtual press conference that announced the league’s reboot plans.

“We’re very positive that we will push through. This is good for us, it’s good for the people, it’s good for the economy, it will open up your television for content that will be important to us—those who love basketball,” he added.

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While indications are strong that the league will get a green light from the government to resume a season stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic, it isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion.

Approval in phases

As recent as a few days ago, the government had said it wasn’t ready to approve scrimmages yet, much less tournament restarts.

The PBA plans to get approval in phases. First, according to commissioner Willie Marcial, the league has to get approval to relax workout restrictions from individual training to full scrimmages by Sept. 27. If that gets approved, the league will begin convincing the government to allow games to continue.Vargas’ optimism stems from the way the NBA has successfully rebooted its season in the United States after a stoppage also due to the health crisis.

“Can you imagine [what they’re doing?] The broadcast is very well received. In fact, their ratings is very high on a TV standpoint,” he said in Filipino.

“I’m not thinking of the negatives. But if it happens. I’m sure we’ll be able to survive,” Vargas added. “We’ve survived six months of no games. And here we are.”

Harsh penalties

And to further away the IATF, Marcial said strict protocols will be instituted to guarantee everyone’s safety.

Players won’t be allowed to leave the bubble, even for family reasons. Those who do leave the bubble will no longer be allowed in. And anyone caught violating health protocols stands to be fined P100,000 and will be docked a month’s worth of salary. A five-game suspension will also be slapped on the violator.

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“All we’re waiting for is the IATF’s approval to be able to do this,” Vargas said.

Marcial said San Miguel Beer’s opening victory over Magnolia will count in the compressed tournament and two games will be played every day starting at 4 p.m. Games on Wednesdays. Fridays and Sundays will be aired on national TV.

Fans won’t be allowed in the bubble. The PBA had long expected that any reboot would mean playing in empty arenas. The league is also expected to miss a few popular names due to injuries and other reasons. The Beermen still could park June Mar Fajardo in the injured list despite the extra time he has had in rehab. Barangay Ginebra, meanwhile, still hasn’t lured back Greg Slaughter, who left over an apparent contract dispute. TNT also has a few issues with veteran Kelly Williams, who recently announced his retirement without informing the squad.

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TAGS: Basketball, IATF, PBA
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