CEBU CITY — The lack of home games is proving to be a prickly issue for representatives and owners of teams that are looking to join the south division of the second season of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).
In a consultation meeting with league founder Senator Manny Pacquiao, Chief Operating Officer Zaldy Realubit and Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes, the prospective teams were told that initial plans for the second season, which is set to open on June 12, would have them staging just one home game, with all the rest to be played on the road in various parts of Luzon.
“Majority of your games will be in Manila. One game will be played on your own homefloor. The concern of ABS-CBN is mahihirapan sila sa schedule nila. Yung ABS- CBN, may ibang commitments na rin kasi,” disclosed Realubit.
Pacquiao, however, tried to ease the concerns, saying the format will only be for the elimination round. The home-and-away format would be in play during the playoffs, he assured.
“Eliminations lang yun. Iba yung sa playoffs. Kung makapasok kayo sa playoffs, maraming homecourt na pwede mangyari dun,” said the boxing superstar.
That proved to be the start of a lengthy discussion regarding the matter, with teams arguing that the lack of home games for South-based teams defeats the purpose of having a nationwide league.
“For example, Davao City kami, we’ll only have one game there and all the rest will be in Manila? Does that mean that the fan base namin sa Davao won’t get to see us play?” said the representative of the team from Davao City.
Another from Davao Occidental expressed that this format would alienate their fanbase, not to mention ramp up operational expenses.
“Not only would be we spending more but yung market namin is di rin makakapanood sa Manila. The southern teams will be at a disadvantage at ma-alienate yung fanbase namin.”
Mike Reyes, the brother of Gilas head coach Chot Reyes who was there representing the Cebu Landmasters, said that hearing of that plan was disappointing especially since basketball teams from this part of the country had long been pining for high-level basketball.
“We’ve all been waiting for this kind of league pero kung babalik rin pala tayo lahat sa Manila, so we’re all reconsidering this,” shared Reyes, the current athletic director of Southwestern University-Phinma.
As it is, competing in the fledlging will not be cheap.
Pacquiao told those in attendance the franchise fee has been set at P10 million. To make it easier for team owners, the senator said that they can pay a downpayment of P4 million and pay P500,000 each month for succeeding months.
There’s also a conference fee of P200,000 as well as a cash bond of P200,000, he added.
Nevetheless, Duremdes said the discourse was exactly what they were here in Cebu for.
“We’re here for the consultation. We’ll see if that’s the majority. We understand yung gastos talaga going to Manila is a concern. Pero kaya nga andito kami para mapag-usapan natin what’s best for you guys and what’s best for the league,” the former PBA MVP said.
The north division of the MPBL has already signed up 10 new teams, bringing the total number of squads to 20.
The next step of the league to truly make it a nationwide one is to expand to the south. Team representatives from Davao, Cebu, Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, Masbate and Zamboanga, which confirmed its participation on Saturday afternoon, were at the meeting.
“We are hoping for the south divisions teams to commit to playing in the MPBL. The first conference was a success and that’s why we’re expanding here to the south. We’re hoping more teams can participate.
“The vision of the senator is for the players from the grassroots level, the ex-pros that weren’t given a chance, and basically all Filipino players,” said Duremdes.