With alert level 3 up again, PBA ready to lose fans but hopes play won’t stop | Inquirer Sports
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With alert level 3 up again, PBA ready to lose fans but hopes play won’t stop

/ 04:05 AM January 02, 2022

Willie Marcial

MANILA, Philippines–Just as PBA commissioner Willie Marcial was prepared to end last year wearing a smile—after the league finished one conference and was busy running another—a feeling of uneasiness came on New Year’s Eve after Malacañang announced the return of the capital to the stricter alert level 3.

The new order will run from Monday to Jan. 15, and Marcial knows that the on-going Governors’ Cup, which welcomed fans back in the stands just over two weeks ago, could come out of the holiday break playing in an empty venue again.

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“Nakakahinayang lang (it’s just a pity),” Marcial told the Inquirer over the phone Saturday night. “But we will abide by that if so ordered (by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases). Because like what we in the PBA have been saying, ‘health is a priority for everyone.’”

Marcial knows that the worst case scenario for the league under alert level 3 is that they will return to a semibubble setup, possibly at Ynares Center in Pasig City. He’s hoping that the situation around the Metro improves and that alert level 4 won’t be necessary.

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Up in the air

“I will talk to the GAB (Games and Amusements Board) and the LGUs (Local Government Units) hosting our games on Monday,” Marcial said as he remains hopeful that fans could stay.

The PBA has been open to having fans at a limited capacity. A cap of around 4,000 individuals was set by Araneta Coliseum and the Quezon City government. That number is expected to shrink once the games move to Mall of Asia Arena, another old PBA venue, but with significantly less seating capacity.

It’s all up in the air at this time until Marcial talks to all the officials concerned.

Two playdates have been set in the Pasay City site for this month, and Marcial revealed that he is also mulling to play matches at Ynares Center in Antipolo, an original choice for the season during its planning stage.

The league played two Philippine Cups in the last two years minus the fans, with the 2020 edition under a strict bubble setup in Pampanga where players, team staff and PBA personnel weren’t allowed to go home for close to three months.

“I’ve been chatting with some of the team governors earlier,” Marcial bared. “We’re bracing for the possibility of losing the [live]fans [in the venue again]. We’re also preparing for the likelihood we’d relocate to a new venue.”

Reviewing all scenarios

“We’re reviewing every possible scenario,” Marcial went on. “I just hope that we won’t be asked to halt our operations. Though, for me, I think the worst that could happen to us is to revert to a bubble-type setting.”

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Playing without the fans again is actually OK for Marcial because it would be best for everyone.

“We’re fine with that,” he said. “But I feel if [the country] hits double-digit [positive] cases [daily], that’s when we’d make massive adjustments [like considering another bubble] just to keep playing.”

Marcial is hoping that the league goes on without having to deal with a massive hitch, as that would also enable him to focus on the calibration of rules for foreigners aspiring to enter the PBA in the coming Draft, and the much-awaited free agency that features the league’s biggest stars. INQ

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