PBA could finally play full time in the city—with fans in the stands
The downgrading of Metro Manila’s alert level status has given reason for the Philippine Basketball Association to be hopeful about inching slowly to normalcy—including the possible return of fans to playing venues.
“We’re starting to look at that direction,” said commissioner Willie Marcial on Friday on the heels of a meeting with members of the PBA board. “It will take a lot of hard work and a lot of luck, but we have to have that goal of having fans back.”
Sources said the league is being guarded with its optimism—for good reason.
“The key here is that it’s a little over two weeks [that looser restrictions will be implemented,” said a team official, who asked not to be named.
But Marcial said the PBA has created several backup scenarios in case health restrictions tighten up again.
Metro Manila had been downgraded to alert level 2 late Thursday evening after improving numbers of daily cases of COVID-19 infections. The downgrade will cover the period of Nov. 5 to 21.
And according to the latest set of guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF), contact sports shall be allowed to be undertaken at a “maximum of 50 percent indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals and those below 18 years of age, even if unvaccinated, and 70 percent outdoor venue capacity.”
That meant that Asia’s pioneering pro league can now opt to stage its import-spiced Governors’ Cup in Metro Manila.
And the wording of the guidelines certainly open up the possibility of fans returning back to the stands.
“We still need to find out what the protocols are and what requirements we need to complete to put fans back in the stands,” said Marcial, who is set to meet with the government task force to draft guidelines on spectators returning to playing venues.
“We’ve gotten a directive from the IATF requiring that all workers should be fully vaccinated, but I’ve yet to thoroughly check it,” he added.
Then there is the other sticky caveat: Local government units (LGUs) have a final say on the matter.
The PBA certainly doesn’t lack friendly LGUs who can welcome the league to their areas under alert level 2.
Marcial said they are already talking to the Pasig local government to discuss holding the Governors’ Cup at Ynares Sports Arena.
The PBA took the lid off its 46th season on July 16, but an uptick in coronavirus infections, brought on by a more contagious variant, prompted the league to go into an indefinite break on Aug. 3, after playing a total of 26 matches.
The PBA then relocated in Bacolor town in Pampanga, and resumed play on Sept. 1, playing the remainder of the centerpiece tournament at Don Honorio Ventura State University. There, TNT emerged as the new all-Filipino champion.
Marcial said the Governors’ Cup will kick off on the 26th or 28th of this month, depending on when the teams can clear their imports for playing.
“Most of the imports have secured paperwork with the [Department of Foreign Affairs],” Marcial said. “If they can complete everything soon, we’re looking to get things going by Nov. 28.”
Also slated to open is the league’s inaugural 3×3 tournament, which will have a total of 13 competing teams, on Nov. 20.
In other league news, the Commissioner’s Office has approved a trade between Phoenix Super LPG and NorthPort involving big men Sean Anthony and Vic Manuel.
The Fuel Masters acquired do-it-all forward Anthony, promising swingman Sean Manganti, and a future second round pick from the Batang Pier, who will receive Manuel and Michael Calisaan in the swap.
Anthony, an 11-year veteran, played for a total of eight games in the last Philippine Cup and put up 10.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists for the Batang Pier before going down with bone spurs on his right foot.
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