Opening past May could leave PBA vulnerable to another major fiscal hit
The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) opening its 46th Season past May doesn’t seem to be such a welcome alternative as far as the league’s leadership is concerned.
But if push comes to shove, it may be the only option left for Asia’s pioneering pro league to take.
After losing “hundreds of millions” of pesos in revenues last year from unrealized television and gate receipts when it was able to hold only the Philippine Cup that was played without live fans, commissioner Willie Marcial on Tuesday said that not being able to open in May at the latest—even without fans again—would force the PBA to take another huge financial hit.
And not even a league as formidable as the PBA would be willing to take that again.
Two conferences were slated to be held this year as approved in the last board meeting. The Philippine Cup was to run for four months and the imports-laced Governors’ Cup for six before the health crisis worsened and, like what happened last year also at around this time, ground Philippine sports to a halt.
The season was first penciled to open on April 9 before Marcial moved it to the 18th as their permit from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) was still pending.
But the rising number of the COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal prompted the IATF to implement the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until April 4, thereby putting plans of leagues all over the country on hold.
“The board will meet after the Holy Week break [and ECQ] to discuss if we can have an opening later than May,” Marcial said. “It will be tough for us to play two conferences if we open later than May.”
The league spent more than P65 million in maintaining the bubble for more than two months last year, and Marcial admitted in past interviews that another bubble would be their last resort for the 46th Season, what with the cost and mental torture it gave players and league staff while being in virtual isolation.
Playing just one conference in the last 16 months is obviously not good for the teams, which shell out millions to pay the salaries of their players, as less games would mean less exposure for their respective products.
Teams last year also didn’t cut down on players’ salaries and soldiered on despite health risks by playing the PH Cup inside the Angeles City bubble where Barangay Ginebra triumphed over TNT in the finals.
Marcial said that the board of governors will sit down once the ECQ, implemented in NCR and nearby provinces on Monday, ends, to discuss the season opening that will surely not happen on the rescheduled April 18 date, especially if the ECQ is extended.
“The players would need time to practice, and they are having none of that right now,” Marcial said.
Teams were only able to hold individual practices before the latest lockdown was announced, and Marcial knows that they—in order to minimize risk of injury—would need at least two to three weeks of hard scrimmages to be able to get to near game shape if an official opening date is announced.
And if the health situation doesn’t drastically improve, fears of an extension, or even the gradual scaling down of it, would definitely make the PBA move the opening to late-May at the earliest.
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