Sunday, November 05, 2006

New SBL season still up in the air

Based on the last three years of the development of the SBL, the semi-pro league can be seen as relatively successful. The emergence of the star power and team competitiveness in Taiwanese basketball brought back fans’ attention as the infant league received more and more fan support and commercial success. However, as we approach the fourth SBL season, doubts arise.

The SBL Committee, the decision-making body of the league, reached an agreement Sep. 16 that the winner of A-League, which became the second division basketball after the SBL established, is qualified for a double round robin “relegation games.” The third-place team will be dropped to the A-League while the others stay (or be promoted) in the SBL.

Which means Vita Genomics, this year’s A-League winner, will compete with ETSN and YMY, which ranked 6th and 7th last season in the relegation games.

Problem is YMY claimed it lost five players and had another five in the U-20 NT training camp and refused to take part in the games. The committee then said the relegation games has been renamed to “qualification games”, which means if Vita Genomics ranks in the top two in the qualification games, it can be promoted to the SBL; ETSN and YMY will not be dropped no matter how they perform in the games.

Anyway, no one knows when the games will be played. No one knows that, if Vita Genomics does qualified for the promotion, when can it be promoted to the SBL – in 06-07 season or 07-08 season. Some team representatives also claimed Vita should pay an amount of right fee before it’s allowed to join the league.

The chaos didn’t end there. On Oct. 12 the Committee announced that ESPN Taiwan and Videoland were selected as joint partners for SBL’s broadcasting rights and marketing rights at a price tag of NT$ 56 million (US$ 1.7 million), up from last season’s NT$ 35 million.

The decision made clear that the Taipei Arena, which was owned by the mother group of ETSN Antelopes, had lost the marketing rights battle to Videoland, which also owns a SBL team, and ESPN Taiwan.

But the Taipei Arena refused to give up as it knew the league had problem finding venues to play in. The Taipei Physical Education College Gymnasium (TPEC Gym), the venue that housed SBL games for the last three years, is due to be reconstructed in June, 2007. The date is after the conclusion of the 2006-07 SBL season, but TPEC Gym also hosts university games in March and April 2007, which means the SBL will need to find an alternative venue during that time.

Until now, the SBL Committee has not announced its final decision yet. Will it stay with its original decision? Will it let the Taipei Arena re-enter as a bidder? Either way, it’s going to be an ugly battle all over again.

With the administration mess mentioned above, the opening date of the new season has not been decided. Previously the leagues announced that the 2006-07 SBL season will tip off on Dec. 31, 2006.

In player transaction news, former NT player Lo Shin-liang failed to reach agreement with YMY on contract extension and left the team. He is still unsigned.