As leagues express worry over ‘pro’ tag, Mitra offers solutions–and safe haven for players | Inquirer Sports
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As leagues express worry over ‘pro’ tag, Mitra offers solutions–and safe haven for players

By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 05:10 AM October 29, 2020

The Philippine Superliga (PSL) and Premier Volleyball League (PVL) have expressed hesitation about accepting a designation as professional tournaments.

Abraham Mitra, the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) chair, has a solution to all those worries, which he says are nothing compared to what his agency can offer.

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“We just want to be of assistance to all [concerned], especially the players, because it’s our mandate. We make sure their contracts are followed and nobody will be shortchanged,’’ Mitra said on Wednesday after PSL and PVL offered resistance to a joint memorandum of the GAB and the Philippine Sports Commission designating them as professionals.

PSL chair Philip Ella Juico said that while his league is commercial in nature, it isn’t professional.

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“Pros are those who earn a living solely by playing,” Juico said. “Some of them (volley players) are teachers, designers and even military. So how can you say that they are earning from volleyball? It’s not just about earning from the sport—if we say that, then there are a lot of athletes from Patafa (Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association) who should now be called pros. EJ [Obiena] receives prize money, [Kristina] Knott, and this was even televised, after crossing the finish line in one race, received a $2,000 prize. Are they pros? If we are declared pro, that will set back the development of the sport.”

Juico’s contention, however, that athletes have to “earn a living solely by playing” has a counterpoint in the Philippines Football League (PFL), which has accepted its pro tag and has applied for GAB licenses. The PFL, which has started its bubble tournament, has among its player ranks those with day jobs in business process outsourcing, marketing and real estate industries.

The PVL meanwhile, is worried that college players will be directly affected if it accepts GAB supervision—and the fact that licenses add another financial burden for team owners.

“Basically, the teams and the league will incur more expenses. Also, college players will no longer be allowed to play for their respective leagues since we are now … professional,’’ PVL president Ricky Palou said.

Mitra, however, had earlier said he was willing to discuss the issue of the licensing fees. He added that his office can issue special licenses for college players so they can suit up for club leagues.

‘Nonissue’

The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has been under the supervision and regulation of the GAB and its players shell out P4,500 annually for their licenses. Mitra said the GAB would be flexible to other leagues with a yearly license of P1,000 for players or even less.

“It’s not excessive and I consider the fee a nonissue. Like a professional driver’s license, you earn from it as a driver. It gives them protection. With a license, it upgrades the morale and dignity of the athlete because professionalism comes with great responsibility,’’ Mitra said, adding the fee is a small price to pay for a player’s assurance of safety.

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The Inquirer has learned that some players had previously encountered contract problems before but had no choice but to accept their fate, fearing they will be blackballed by teams if they raise a howl.

Just recently, the GAB went after the team owners of a football club who failed to pay their players while assisting boxers who encountered problems with their managers and vice versa.

“We always believed in self-regulation and we only come in when needed or approached. So far, we have no complaints with leagues we have regulated and worked harmoniously with them,’’ Mitra said.

Aside from PBA and PFL, basketball leagues Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3, East Asia Super League, National Basketball League and Women’s National Basketball League are under the GAB. Recently, Professional Chess Association of the Philippines has turned professional while a pro table tennis tournament is likewise seeking sanction from the GAB. Athletes from both bodies earn considerably less than top volleyball players.

The PBA and PFL have also contributed greatly to the development of the national programs, with both leagues allowing the national team—in PFL’s case the collegiate-flavored Azkals Development Team—to participate in its tournaments.

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