Major setback for ABL as champions San Miguel Beermen on the way out
The Beermen are set to leave the ABL, just months after celebrating a championship in June. Jerome Ascano

THE Asean Basketball League is bracing for a major blow with reports that reigning champion San Miguel Beer is no longer planning to field a team next season.

Team insiders bared that company officials have already prepared a report calling for the pullout of San Miguel Corp.'s team from the league, with the papers now awaiting the final approval of big boss Ramon S. Ang.

San Miguel's impending pullout should be a big setback for the ABL, which for the first time since it was launched in 2009 will be left without a foothold in the region's biggest basketball market.

Contrary to speculation, sources former SMC sports director Noli Eala's move to another position in the conglomerate had little to do with the decision to disband a team that had been considered Eala's baby.

Sources insist it was a proposed 'membership fee' which amounts to around P13 million and ties down member teams to the regional league for four years that hastened San Miguel's departure.

"Hindi nagustuhan ng mga boss 'yon," said a source. "Kasi once nagbayad ka, committed ka na for four years, hindi puwedeng mag-refund in case ayaw mo na."

The Beermen have been in the league for just two years, finishing second to the Indonesia Warriors in their maiden season before beating the same team in the finals just last June.

Before them, the Philippine Patriots won an ABL championship before owner Mikee Romero bought a PBA franchise.

The Beermen's exit, league sources said, will also likely snuff out whatever interest SMC's biggest rival, the PLDT group of Manny V. Pangilinan, has of joining the regional league.

It is still unclear what San Miguel's plans are for the players, although ABL MVP Asi Taulava has already moved to PBA ballclub Air21 in a trade and Chris Banchero has put his name in the PBA D-League rookie draft.
 
Banchero's agent is also peddling his services to other ABL teams, sources added.

The team's champion coach, Leo Austria, is already part of the Petron coaching staff as an assistant.

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