PBA joins EASL board to build 'stronger ties' with Asian leagues

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 09 2021 05:31 PM

The PBA will have a representative in the policy board of the East Asia Super League. File photo. FIBA.basketball
The PBA will have a representative in the policy board of the East Asia Super League. File photo. FIBA.basketball

MANILA, Philippines -- In an effort to build "stronger ties" with other basketball leagues in Asia, the PBA has joined the policy board of the East Asia Super League (EASL).

This development was confirmed by PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas on Tuesday, ahead of the league's formal launch in December.

PBA teams have previously competed in the EASL, which had its inaugural season in 2017. The NLEX Road Warriors and the Blackwater Bossing -- then playing as the Elite -- competed in the Super 8 tournament in Macau in 2018. Blackwater returned to compete in the "Terrific 12" in 2019 together with TNT and San Miguel, with the Beermen finishing third in the event.

"We asked to be part of the policy board of [the] EASL," Vargas revealed. "So we will be sending a representative to be a board member in the EASL."

"This led to EASL inviting a board member from Japan, a board member from China, a board member from each of the teams that each of the leagues that were going," he added.

Teams from Japan, South Korea, Chinese-Taipei, and China competed in previous EASL tournaments before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to cancel its competitions for 2020 and 2021.

Vargas explained that the PBA agreed to join the EASL in order to "have stronger ties with the [other] leagues in the region."

"And when we do have stronger ties there, we will be able to see to it that we respect each other's rights in terms of movements of players," he added. "So, we will have better coordination in terms of movements of players."

In recent months, several Filipino players have made the move to play in different leagues abroad. Japan's B.League, in particular, has attracted nine Filipino players -- including two former PBA stars in Kiefer Ravena and Ray Parks Jr. 

Three Fil-Ams have also signed with teams in the T1 league, and the Korean Basketball League (KBL) is also set to open its doors to Asian imports.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial said he is already in communication with representatives from the KBL and the B.League.

"Ang KBL, ang commissioner niya sumulat sa 'tin na gustong makipag-meeting sa 'tin. Ang Japan League, may All-Star, iniimbitahan tayo na pumunta sa Japan sa kanilang All-Star," he said.

"So nakikita nila na may usapan na ang iba't ibang liga, na tina-try tayo kausapin ng Korea, iniimbita tayo ng Japan League. So simula na, na sana maging ayos ang samahan natin dito sa Asia," he added.

For Vargas, the decision to join the EASL will also be an opportunity to showcase the talent of the Filipino players and to prove that the PBA remains the top league in Asia.

"The reason we also joined that is we also wanted to show that we are still the best league in Asia," he said. "Third is, we'll also try to bring in some of the games of EASL into the Philippines, so it benefits us as well."

"And fourth, it is also a revenue-generating proposition for the PBA," he added. "So it's the beginning of going global."

"So pinag-usapan namin lahat 'yan sa Board, and we thought that it's time to open up, join our brothers in Asia, work with them, play with them, and show them what the Filipino has."

A more formal announcement from the EASL is expected in December.

In August 2020, EASL partnered with FIBA to launch a Champions League-style tournament featuring the top teams in the region playing in a home-and-away format.

In an interview with former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala in January 2021, the chief executive of the EASL said the PBA will be "absolutely essential" to the success of the league.

"It's absolutely essential. I think everyone around the region knows the passion of the Filipino basketball fans, and also whether it be we're having a game in Tokyo or Taipei or wherever, there's going to be a huge section of the crowd that's Filipino fans," said EASL chief executive Matt Beyer.

"We need the support of the PBA, we need to have Filipino fans behind us, and it's extremely essential," Beyer stressed.