Palawan, with the National Basketball Association (NBA) already paving the way for the revival of the 2019-2020 season interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, how far is our very own Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is reopening the All Filipino Conference this year? That is one of the major questions hanging right now with a seemingly “over-controlled” handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Too many modified quarantine rules on the national and LGU level, too many protocols in business, schools, and sports. Please don’t get me wrong but I know that all these measures are put in place to make sure the country doesn’t blow up with new COVID cases. My concern is that too much political control over the nation may cause us some economic turmoil in the long term. I am hoping that we all help each other out in making sure that the spread is contained even if lockdowns ease off over the next few weeks and that we become more responsible individuals in keeping our part in following safety protocols around us.

Going back to the topic of when the PBA will return to action. It seems we still do not have a semblance of a relaunch what with the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for emerging diseases) carefully micromanaging the guidelines to roll out to the general public. The PBA intends to submit (or may have submitted already) a proposal for a slow, phase by phase, return to play process for the league.

If rules for a Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) are to be followed, it seems like team sports may not be part of the renaissance of sporting events just yet but the proposal the PBA will be putting forward to the IATF may be reviewed and given a chance by the implementing body.

The health certification and conditioning of players will take perhaps the first month in efforts to revive the league. If June 16 is to be followed as the re-entry date for player conditioning, we are talking about July 16 as the earliest date that teams can gradually start team practice sessions.

It typically will require around two weeks of team practices to get the players back in the groove and before a league opens shop, it would give teams a chance to play tune-up matches with each other which will take another two weeks minimum. If we are to follow the stated timelines, we are looking at the re-opening of the PBA by Mid August and this is assuming that there are no other glitches or roadblocks that may cause more delay.

It seems like the PBA can kick off professional sports in the country at the same time that classes open up again in August. Once the PBA gets their foot on the pedal in team practices, expect all other professional sporting bodies in football and volleyball to also follow suit. It only takes one organization to step up and brave the pandemic before everyone else follows suit and I do hope and pray that with the launching of our local sporting events, that we all start seeing a big step forward to our new normal.

The Economics of the PBA

After 3 months of inactivity, the lack of marketing, media mileage, and revenue stream may hurt the pockets of any PBA team owner. Now the conglomerates like the San Miguel Corporation teams and the Manny Pangilinan ball clubs may not necessarily feel the bite of a lengthy stoppage but I am certain the likes of Rain or Shine, Columbian Dyip, Phoenix Fuel, NorthPort and Blackwater, or simply the independent teams, maybe feeling the pinch already.

These are not really small companies but they definitely aren’t as big as SMC. I do hope that the PBA finds a way to revive the league to prevent it from shrinking as it already invested and worked hard to get to 12 teams, the highest ever participation the league has seen in its history.

An idea to help subsidize the cost of running a PBA team is to start allowing team sponsors. Barako Bull started that a few years back when Harbor Center sponsored their participation in the 2010 season. The league governors should also be open-minded when it comes to this approach because frankly, the PBA has its own political interests in that they don’t allow business competition to enter the fold. I believe that in the spirit of true sportsmanship, that they allow competitors to at least sponsor teams to alleviate the growing costs of maintaining a professional basketball team in the Philippines.

The PBA should also start looking into television coverage of training camps to revive the interest in the league. The NBA marketing group did a huge job in making the league a global market by broadcasting rookie camps, summer leagues, and showing glimpses of training camp practice sessions. There are a lot of learnings our local pro league can adapt to growing the brand again.

Look, I know there are big conglomerates that can put up a team outright like the Jollibee Group, SM Group of Companies, the Gokongweis, etc. but if these big corporations really want to join the PBA, they should’ve done so a long time ago. This means that the Commissioner’s Office should start relaxing rules in team sponsorships and franchise approvals to improve the league’s long term viability. To make things more interesting, perhaps allow an MPBL selection to also enter as a guest team in the All Filipino.

The NBA already started with the jersey sponsors project and it’s looking like it’s going to be a permanent fixture in that league’s landscape. I strongly believe that the PBA should follow this path as well along with a continuous, outside box, improvement type of thinking that can keep fans and league membership ever interested in the Filipino brand of basketball.

(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)