Hopeful that it can still open its 46th Season next month and play a two-conference calendar, the PBA, though, is also bracing for the worst.
A board meeting has been scheduled next week to tackle the scenarios that the pro league is facing and one of them is not being able to open in May for the Philippine Cup, which would reduce the league to a one-conference year again and make it mandatory for the league’s leadership to revisit its finances.
That would mean cutting down on expenses, which could inevitably include the salaries of players and team staff and that of the Commissioner’s Office.
“We will discuss the financial state [of the PBA] in that meeting as well as evaluate what the situation is for us,” commissioner Willie Marcial said. “Also, and I think this is a big issue, is we need to know where we can find vaccines [for everyone in the PBA].”
Raging health crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has sent sports in the country spiraling, and though the PBA was the only league that played more than two months last year despite the raging health crisis, having just one conference this year does not seem to be a viable proposition for its member teams.
“That (salary cuts) is just one item; and we are not even sure if it will be brought up,” vice chairman Bobby Rosales of Terrafirma told the Inquirer over the phone on Thursday night. “The first thing we need to determine [in that meeting] is if we will have a season, and second, what kind of a season would that be.”
But Rosales is aware of the realities the league is facing.
“We need to put all options on the table,” Rosales added. “We (the board) will hear all the proposals [of the Commissioner’s Office] moving forward. Companies [all over the country] are suffering and we need a wholistic approach to all of this. For me, if we need to address the concerns of our (company) employees, that would also include our (PBA) players.”
The past 17 months has seen the PBA play just those two months inside a bubble in Angeles City, and a repeat of that remains as the last resort of the league this year, according to Marcial.
Marcial will present potential solutions to the problems the PBA is facing and Al Panlilio, the Meralco representative, said that his team will abide by whatever the collegial body decides in that meeting.
“That was a question asked last year,” Panlilio said when asked if his team would be amenable to a salary cut. “That needs to be discussed at the board level, and if something needs to be done, it should be a board decision.
“It’s a difficult decision, definitely,” Panlilio said. “We need to explore all options.”
Raymond Yu, who co-owns Rain or Shine with Terry Que, also said that his team will do whatever the others decide on. And like Marcial, Rosales and Panlilio, Yu is hopeful that a vaccine comes along not only to save the PBA season, but for things in the country to improve.
“I’m hopeful that we can salvage at least one conference,” Yu said in a separate interview. Things started looking bleak for sports again when National Capital Region (NCR) and four nearby provinces were again placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which will end—supposedly—on April 11, granting that the health situation improves.
Marcial acknowledged that the situation would have to at least be modified general community quarantine in NCR for the PBA to have a season, and “that is two notches below ECQ,” he said.
The commissioner knows that he would have to give teams at least three weeks of honest-to-goodness training for its players to be able to even come near game shape before the league decides on an opening day.
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