By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE health pandemic has forced the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) to revisit its plans for its Season 46.
Targeted to begin on a rescheduled date of April 18, Asia’s first play-for-pay league is highly likely to make tweaks to the start of its new season because of the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the country, moving government authorities to put Metro Manila and nearby provinces in a two-week bubble.
Under the bubble, which started early this week and will lapse on April 4, movement in covered areas is limited to only those considered as essential (e.g., work and buy provisions) and people are encouraged to stay at home in the hopes of mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, which now has a number of variants.
On Monday, the country saw the number of new cases tally a record of 8,019, with experts and researchers suggesting that the trend could continue if measures to slow down the spread were not put in place.
“We won’t be following up on our request [to start the season] to the government for now because we know well the situation we are in. It will be tough to make a program and schedule at this moment,” said PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial on pba.ph.
“We’ll wait for April 5, the end of the two-week IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) bubble. We’ll wait for their announcement, then we’ll assess the situation,” Mr. Marcial continued.
The league had sent a letter to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases asking approval for it to start its new season in April.
It originally pegged the season kickoff on April 11, but then delayed it by a week to give the teams more time to prepare and for the PBA to evaluate further the direction it would take, including a suitable venue for its tournaments.
The PBA successfully held a “bubble” tournament last year at Clark City in Angeles, Pampanga, to salvage its pandemic-halted Season 45. It reportedly cost the league P65 million to P70 million to stage.
It is hoping not to do a full bubble for the new season — eyeing instead a closed circuit setup where the participants’ movements are limited to home-game venue-home — because of the expected high cost of doing one, but something they might consider anew if the situation with the pandemic does not improve.
While they lament having to make further changes for the new season, Mr. Marcial said such have to be made to ensure success just as he expressed the league’s readiness to adjust to what it is dealt with.
For Season 46, the PBA is looking to stage two conferences running for 10 months and the league’s inaugural 3×3 tournament.
“We’re looking forward to a 10-month PBA season. We want to give as much as basketball as possible to the fans,” said PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas in a recent press briefing.
He also assured that the PBA is in good standing despite the challenges and difficulties presented to the league the last two years.