Safety first: Despite facing bigger costs, PBA suspends play indefinitely
The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) played it safe on Thursday, announcing an indefinite suspension of the Governors’ Cup but pegging February as a crucial month for the season-ending tournament.
The decision, which will see the league face as much as a 15 percent spike in potential losses compared to when it had to shut down its all-Filipino tournament during the pandemic’s first strike in 2020, came as the country faced yet another surge in COVID-19 infections.
“At this time when the infection rate is rising, the risk of continuing with the games … outweigh our financial loss,” PBA chair Ricky Vargas said in a bulletin posted on the league’s website on Thursday.
The Inquirer or Wednesday reported that the league was looking to freeze action because of the rise of infections.
“This is one big sacrifice by the league’s board but you can never disregard safety,” said PBA commissioner Willie Marcial.
The league also pulled the plug on scrimmages, rolling the PBA back to its highly restrictive ways during the summer and in the early shutdown of 2020 as Marcial told the Inquirer that several players have entered health and safety protocols. Members of the league’s operations staff are also under strict monitoring.
The league was hemorrhaging cash in the early days of the pandemic when it had to shut down the Philippine Cup, but this current freeze could cost the league about 15 percent more losses on a per-month basis because of the presence of imports. Apart from their salaries, which average around 18 to 20 thousand dollars a month, teams spend for imports’ lodgings and daily expenses like food, utilities, mobility and communication.
Marcial said February will be a make-or-break month for the Governors’ Cup, with a shutdown lasting beyond the year’s second month expected to put the league’s season-ender in peril.
“We’ll study things if we get to that situation,” Marcial said. “As of now, I cannot give you anything definitive, but February will be crucial.”
Ball clubs can still continue with their workouts, but this time, the league allows only a total of seven individuals at a time: four players, a coach, a staffer and a safety officer.
The new cases doubled yet again on Thursday, with the Department of Health reporting 17,220 infections, the highest single-day tally since Sept. 27 last year. The positivity rate has also reached 36.9 percent, which set a new high.
The PBA has not taken up plans to relocate just yet.
“Our priority is everyone’s health and safety. We don’t want to focus on just getting back to playing again. We want everybody to be well,” said Marcial.Vargas, however, assured that the PBA’s hiatus is nothing but temporary.
“This way, we can assure our fans that the quality of the games will be sustained,” he said.
It can be recalled that last year, several teams were decimated by the virus during the Philippine Cup, among them NorthPort and Alaska, who were entering a crucial phase in their campaign at the time.
The league was still able to finish its centerpiece showcase in Bacolor, Pampanga, with TNT emerging as the new Philippine Cup champion. Marcial, in a previous interview, said he was bracing for multiple scenarios, including another stoppage. He has since called for players and staff to avail themselves of a booster shot in order to gain added protection in this persisting global health crisis.