PBA referees calling less fouls and allowing more physicality - and fans are lovin' it
Fans are happy to see more contact and less fouls called during games. Jerome Ascano

NO harm, no foul seems to be back in the PBA – and the fans are loving it.

The physicality has noticeably gone up a notch this season, although sometimes it got out of hand and resulted in flagrant fouls, fights, and suspensions.

League officer in charge Willie Marcial admitted there is a deliberate effort to allow players more freedom when it comes to physicality – as long as they don’t cause harm on purpose.

“Sinabi ko din sa mga players ngayon na maglaro kayo, manggulang kayo, abilidad niyo ilabas niyo, pero wag kayo mananakit, lalo na yung sadyang sakit, kasi hindi talaga papayag na magkasakitan,” Marcial said on Friday after meeting with erring players Eric Camson, Raymond Almazan, and Michael Miranda.

“Play kung ano gusto niyo, okay lang kami, basta wag kang mananakit ng sadya,” he added. “Talagang hindi pupuwede sa atin.”

True enough, whistles are less this early in the season. According to chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III, in the first 28 games of this all-Filipino conference, the average fouls being called in a game is just 42.8, compared to the 49.5 fouls called last season, including 48.8 in the last edition of the Philippine Cup.

Marcial bared they will broach the idea about making changes to the rules and giving players more leeway in terms of physicality in a future board meeting.

“Pero konti lang naman ang iaano (babaguhin) dun. Nagle-let go lang kami ng konti, pero siguro aanuhin din ng board kung paano papunta sa Fiba (rules), o hindi magfi-Fiba, o yung konting Fiba, konting PBA, konting NBA – sa board pag-uusapan yun.”

Even before the changes become official, Marcial has already done away with the constant reviews on possible flagrant fouls and touch fouls that noticeably slowed down the pace of play in the two years under former commissioner Chito Narvasa.

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As a result, the duration of games has gone down from an average of two hours, 20 minutes last season to 1:55 this season, PBA officials said.

The reaction have been mostly positive from fans, who are happy to see players fight for loose balls and rebounds with more ferocity and without having to worry about constant penalties.

As long as the changes make the fans happy, Marcial is willing to give it a try.

“Ako, kung masaya ang fans, masaya tayo. Ito naman para sa kanila eh,” Marcial said. “Alam din ng players yun – para sa fans talaga ‘to.”

“Kaya sinasabi ko, hindi porke’t kayo napatawag o nabawasan kayo sa fines o ano, magbigay naman tayong balik sa mga tao na sumuporta sa atin. Payag naman sila,” he added.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos