16 June 2011

Questionable Rejection and Sale: PBA Style

Questionable Rejection and Sale: PBA Style
I have been an avid follower of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) for 2 decades now and a regular reader of public forums that discuss things like who among the PBA players have the prettiest wife to the one-sided trades that boost one team’s chances in the semis. I have seen how the PBA teams try to protect themselves by not following strictly the salary cap regulations and by skirting the "no-sister-team-trades" and I must say that, for me, the rejection of the sale of the Barako Bull franchise to Phoenix Fuels is one of the most selfish, unfair and monopolistic decisions that the PBA Board has ever made.

I can’t think of any reason why the sale of a financially-challenged and debt ridden franchise to a viable company will be rejected by some of the Board members, except that it will be competing with Petron, a subsidiary of one of the PBA teams: San Miguel Corporation (SMC).

The SMC group already has 3 teams in Asia's first professional basketball league plus a willing partner in Air 21 Express, also a member of PBA. These SMC teams were criticized before as trying to engage in one-sided deals among themselves by using Air 21 as a conduit team.

At first, the reason for the rejection was a head-scratcher until news came out that the Barako Bull management has agreed to sell their stakes to Air 21. Is this a joke or somebody behind this is really pulling the strings?

The Bert Lina-owned company is a team known to save cost by acting as a medium in trades and giving away its high-priced players in exchange for some role players. How can Air 21 afford PhP 50 million for a disbanded team with a very bare and lean roster? Is SMC interested in buying the Air 21 franchise for PhP 80 million in their bid to acquire a shaded 4th team in the league?

If this questionable sale pushes through, businessman-sportsman Lina could become the third owner — after Ramon Ang of SMC and Manny V. Pangilinan of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT)— to control more than one PBA squad.

In order to formalize the sale of the Barako Bull team to Air 21, it has to secure 7 votes from the PBA Board. This means that they need to convince the two Pangilinan teams (Meralco and Talk N’ Text), Powerade, Alaska and Rain or Shine to back their bid. Right now, expected to vote for the sale are the three SMC teams of Petron (formerly named SMB), B-Meg and Barangay Ginebra Kings plus Air 21 and Barako Bull.

I hope some sense of decency and even an ounce of competitiveness are still residing in the hearts of the PBA Board of Governors. I don’t want to pretend that there will be no backroom negotiations (i.e. dangling their votes on where the games will be aired?) from hereon, but if they believe that the fans deserve some quality games, then the Board should nix the sale and reconsider the application of Phoenix Fuels.

Let's see how things will pan out in the next couple of days.

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