Thursday, April 30, 2009

Yulon to pay fine, resume play

Yulon Luxgen agreed to pay a NT$600,000 fine and resume play in the remainder of the SBL season after a walkout last week, eliminating any doubt that the league will fold after Year Six.

With 19.2 seconds left in the game vs. Dacin, Yulon head coach Zhang Xue-lei led the entire team out of court after a controversial call and refused to finish the game. According to the SBL regulation, Yulon would be slapped with a NT$600,000 fine for walking out and is in danger of losing its eligibility to play in the league for two years.

Yulon head coach Zhang Xue-lei told the media that "If they (Dacin) want it (the regular season title) that badly, it's OK, I'll just give it to them."

Bad officiating has been the biggest problem in the SBL and the league hasn't done anything to solve the problem, a Yulon official said. Yulon agreed to pay the fine and keep playing but also ask for a change from the CTBA side, including referee evaluation, to improve the situation.

This incident is interesting and scaring to me in a lot of ways. At first, I thought that Yulon might want to relocate the team to China's CBA, a move they have been contemplating for years since the company invested a lot in China. It's natural for Yulon to field a team there and try to increase its exposure and build connections.

The team called a press conference the following day after the walkout, reiterating the league's bad officiating, the same topic SBL teams have been complaining about for years. Most SBL teams assumed and accused that a lot of SBL refs were in favor of Dacin Tigers, whose owner is no other than Wang Jen-da, the CTBA President.

Should the president of the basketball federation own a team in the same league? Of course the answer is negative, but that's also what we have here since as long as I can remember.

Wang Jen-sheng, who works for the CTBA in charge of operation and evaluation of Taiwan's basketball referees, surprised many when he said that the CTBA president should not own a team, which he dared not speak in the past since he works under the president. It was quite obvious that Wang Jen-sheng was clearly aware of that the referees' reputation is on the line this time.

What's super interesting was that the Premier Liu Chao-shiuan -- yes, the Premier of Taiwan -- and the SAC Chairwoman Tai Hsia-ling were also involved in this mess. As the walkout news hit the newspaper bigtime, Liu said that he watched the game himself on TV and it's quite obvious that the referee made a bad call, suggesting that he was on Yulon's side. Tai was also critical of SBL's officiating, according to reports from media outlets.

Those comments did not sit well with Wang Jen-sheng, who in return told the media "The Premier is wrong. I really don't belive he watched that game."

However, the strangest thing among all is this: SBL lead referee Huang Chao-he and Wang Jen-sheng both said that the SBL teams had listed a number of "unwelcome, unfriendly or unpopular" referees and privately submitted the list to Huang and Wang. Well, if you think that's strange enough, the most shocking truth is that the SBL did answer the teams' "need."

That means the SBL teams get to "pick out" and get rid of the refs they don't like. This is simply ridiculous and beyond everyone's imagination. Wang and Huang should not have let this happen in the first place. But since the SBL is a loosely-organized league with a fragile management, I could understand why they made the compromise.

Anyway, Yulon is back in the game like nothing had happened. Will the SBL improve the officiating and the evaluation system? It's still anyone's guess.