How the rise of PVL, PH volleyball has put the sport on pedestal

How the rise of PVL, PH volleyball has put the sport on a pedestal

/ 05:00 PM May 28, 2024

PVL choco mucho flying titans creamline cool smashers volleyball success Philippines Shakey's V-League

Now and then: from holding the Shakey’s V-League games to small venues to record-breaking attendance, the PVL–and Philippine volleyball–are certainly on the rise.

MANILA, Philippines —From holding the games in small university gyms to hosting a Finals series with an average of more than 20,000 spectators,  the Premier Volleyball League–and, in turn, the sport of volleyball–has come a long way in the Philippines.

This was what longtime organizer Sports Vision had envisioned since it founded the Shakey’s V-League–where PVL traces its roots that started primarily as a collegiate preseason league–in 2004, and seeing drones of fans come to the PVL games now has left president Ricky Palou in awe of how volleyball in the country has evolved.

“I remember if there were at leastm50 people watching, we’d already be so happy,” Palou told Inquirer following the success of the 2024 season’s first conference–which drew record-breaking numbers in live spectators during the PVL Finals.


READ: Looking back at PVL’s ‘very successful’ 2023

“We started in 2004. There were few fans, but we noticed that slowly the number of spectators increased. Now we’re reaching 20,000 to 24,000. We’re happy about this.”

Numbers, as they say, don’t lie and these record-setting crowd counts in the PVL can only be considered a testament to the continued rise of volleyball in the country.


Philippine Army Lady Troopers, champions of the 2011 Shakey's V-League Open Conference.

This photo of Philippine Army Lady Troopers celebrating the of the 2011 Shakey’s V-League Open Conference shows the beginnings of club volleyball competition in the Philippines. –AUGUST DELA CRUZ

It all started when Sports Vision Management Group ventured into the volleyball scene with the Shakey’s V-League, which featured college teams playing at Lyceum, Blue Eagle Gym, and Rizal Memorial Coliseum in the mid-2000s.


Eventually,  club teams and military squads joined to form the Open Conference before the league was rebranded as the PVL in 2017.

The league continued to grow with current clubs Creamline, the most successful with eight titles, Petro Gazz, and Choco Mucho with games now being regularly played FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan, Philsports Arena, and Mall of Asia Arena.


READ: ‘Right time’ to turn pro for PVL; players excited

The PVL decided to turn professional in 2020, making it the first volleyball league in the country with pro status, and drew defunct Philippine Superliga teams like Cignal, PLDT, and Chery Tiggo. 

The first-ever pro tournament inside the bubble in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte was ruled by the Crossovers, led by sisters Jaja and Dindin Santiago-Manabat, after beating the Cool Smashers behind closed doors at PCV Socio-Civic and Cultural Center.

When the COVID-19 restrictions were slowly lifted, the PVL returned in 2022 with a semi-bubble setup at Paco Arena until it received a go signal to open its doors to the fans at FilOil and MOA Arena, thus signaling the rise of Philippine volleyball.

Teams have come and go since then, but the PVL eventually managed to put up a 12-team field with Akari, Nxled, Farm Fresh, Strong Group Athletics, Capital1, and Galeries Tower joining the fray.

Record breaking numbers

PVL crowd Choco Mucho Flying Titans vs Creamline Cool Smashers

A general view of the record PVL crowd during Game 2 of the Finals between Creamline and Choco Mucho at Araneta Coliseum. –PVL PHOTO

The PVL shattered the Philippine volleyball attendance record after 24,459 fans watched Creamline’s title-clinching Game 2 win over Choco Mucho at the Big Dome last December in the second All-Filipino Conference, surpassing the previous high of 22,848 spectators between Ateneo and La Salle in the 2016 UAAP finals at the same venue.

Creamline and Choco Mucho, two of the PVL’s most popular teams, met again for the second straight All-Filipino Finals and it was no surprise that the last game of the series came just over a 1,000 spectators short of the record with a 23,162 crowd count at Araneta Coliseum.

READ: Just like the All-Filipino title, PVL attendance record stays put

Seeing packed crowds even on a weekday, though,  have become a common sight for the PVL, especially during the playoffs, with the championship opener drawing 17,457 supporters on a  Thursday evening also at the Big Dome.

On the final day of the semis last May 5, Close to 18,000 fans attended the game day when Creamline beat Chery Tiggo to return to the finals and Choco Mucho completed a three-game sweep after eliminating Petro Gazz.

This was despite PVL’s simultaneous schedule with the PBA and the Final Four game between UST and La Salle in the UAAP Season 86 women’s volleyball tournament where 19,505 spectators came to see the Tigresses dethrone the Lady Spikers to end a five-year Finals drought.

PVL’s final semis game started at 7:03 p.m. and ended at 9:11 p.m. while the UST-La Salle match was played from 6:09 p.m. to 9:01 p.m.

Palou and the organizers are honored to receive such a huge following from Filipino sports fans, who have been taking the PVL to greater heights as one of the main sports in the country.

“We’re amazed at how the fans have come to like volleyball and appreciate the game of volleyball. I guess they find it exciting so we’re very happy and elated that the number of volleyball fans is increasing,” said the Sports Vision president.

Celebrities like Vice Ganda and Willie Revillame, PBA players, other Filipino athletes, and other personalities have been part of PVL’s enthusiasm over the past two years.

Formula to success

A game between Choco Mucho Flying Titans and Creamline Cool Smashers in the PVL All-Filipino Conference Finals

A game between the PVL’s biggest crowd draws–Choco Mucho Flying Titans and Creamline Cool Smashers–in the PVL All-Filipino Conference Finals. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.nbet

More than the skills and charisma of the league’s fan favorites like Alyssa Valdez, Jema Galanza, Deanna Wong, Sisi Rondina, Mika Reyes, Eya Laure, and other stars,  Palou believes the formula for the PVL’s continuous rise is the excitement and intensity of the games and the parity of the competition.

“Fans want to see good games between teams and everything is fair and transparent, that’s the formula there, ” Palou said. “They come to watch because they enjoy the games.”

“In the last championship game,  I was sitting beside a lady I asked: ‘Who are you rooting for her, Choco Mucho or Creamline?’ She said, ‘’Sir, I’m cheering for Creamline.’ But when Choco Mucho scores, she would still cheer,” he added. 

READ: PVL: Creamline, Choco Mucho grateful for overwhelming support from fans

“So I said,  ‘I thought you were cheering from Creamline?’ She said: ‘Sir as long as the plays and hits are good, we’re also excited.’ It’s exciting. They like a good match.”

But as the league grows, so do the expectations to keep the level of competition high and the audience engaged–which is what the PVL is looking to address as soon as possible.

A good place to start would be a Rookie Draft.

“We just wanted to make sure that everything would be fair. Because we’re transparent, we don’t really want one team to dominate, we’d like all to be competitive and everybody will have a chance to win a championship. What we’re really looking at really is the fair officiating and everything,” Palou said.

“What we’d like to see is the other clubs make their teams more competitive so that all games can attract a good number of spectators. Now what you see is if they know the game will be one-sided, fans tend now to attend. What we really want is all teams will be very competitive.”

READ: PVL looks to address player tampering to preserve league harmony

In the first rookie Draft set for July 6, the college stars and other aspirants are expected to boost the rosters of the bottom four, Strong Group Athletics, Capital1, Galeries Tower, and Farm Fresh.

The move was borne out of recent developments in the PVL when the more established teams pulled off recruitment sprees and signed young collegiate stars who were still far from using up their eligibilities in the collegiate leagues.

‘Volleyball now no. 1 sport’

PVL choco mucho flying titans creamline cool smashers volleyball success Philippines Shakey's V-League

Packed crowds for both the PVL and UAAP volleyball games has PNVF saying that volleyball is now the Philippines’ top sport.

At the rate that the fanbases of the teams in the PVL are growing and how venues are filled for the games also in the UAAP volleyball tournaments,  Philippine National Volleyball Federation president Tats Suzara claimed that volleyball has already surpassed basketball as the country’s top sport.

“Volleyball is now the number one sport among spectators in the Philippines, not basketball. I said this to boss MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan), and he said, ‘that’s a lot, 46 thousand [fans] in one day?'” said Suzara.

“So I told him, volleyball is a family entertainment sport All ages, families, boyfriends-girlfriends, father and mother. So I think, it’s a sport that’s really made for families,” said Suzara.

“If you will see the difference, in my experience, the basketball — Fiba World Cup was more on the players’ experience. But for volleyball, it’s the fan experience. Players cooperate with the fans, they welcome interviews. So I think it makes volleyball now the number one sport in the world and the Philippines, of course,” he added.

And the Philippines’ latest success in the AVC Challenge Cup, where the newly-named Alas Pilipinas women’s squad has made history, has only added to the interest of the nation in volleyball.

Alas Pilipinas program

Alas Pilipinas AVC Challenge Cup 2024

The tightly knit Alas Pilipinas celebrates a four-set win over Iran in the AVC Challenge Cup 2024 Saturday night. —MARLO CUETO/

Despite limited preparation, Alas Pilipinas swept four games in Pool A to reach the semifinals — the farthest a Philippine team reached since joining the tournaments of the Asian Confederation in 1961.

The young Alas Pilipinas, led by captain Jia De Guzman and go-to scorer Angel Canino, won their games in front of electric 5,000 fans at Rizal Memorial Coliseum every night despite the rainy weather in their last two games.

The tickets for the Philippines’ semifinal game against Kazakhstan on Tuesday were sold out as the Filipino Spikers hope to make a historic entry to the Final.

READ: For just P15,000 each to play, Alas Pilipinas earns fans’ hearts

This is exactly how Palou thinks volleyball can solidify itself as the Philippines’ no. 1 sport–through excellence in international tournaments–and the country may have just taken the first step towards that.

“If we do relatively well in the international scene, if we can be competitive in AVC tournaments we think it will improve the following of volleyball. Our target is for the national team to do well in the next Southeast Asian Games, which is next year,” Palou said.

The last time the women’s squad won a Southeast Asian Games medal was in 2005, while the men’s players earned a historic silver medal in the 2019 edition.

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“As early as now we’re hoping that this team will stay together and develop into a really, really good team with 14 players. We’re looking at 20 to 24 players so that if there’s injury, we can have a replacement right away and they train together all the time,” Palou said.


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