Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Talk about Taiwan Beer's seemingly failed attempt exodus


Taiwan Beer made the front page last week when the United Evening News reported that the team has submitted its application to the Chinese Basketball Association in an attempt to become the Chinese leagues' expansion team.

If TB eventually gets accepted by the 17-team league, it will become the second Taiwanese team to join the CBA after Sina Lions, which played in the CBA from 2002-2003. And of course, it will be a huge story.

Taiwan Beer said that it would not "leave" the seven-team Super Basketball League as most people think. So it's not exactly an exodus. Instead, it planned to keep its "B-team, " composed of inferior players, in the SBL and bring it's A-Team to China.

The Chinese Taipei Basketball Association (CTBA), Taiwan's basketball governing body, and the Sports Affairs Council (SAC), the country's top sports governing body, both denied that they were supportive of the plan.

The CTBA said that it has not received official document from TB about the move while the SAC said that if TB did submit an application, the final approval will be a decision by an inter-agency meeting between the SAC, the Ministry of Justice, the Council of Labor Affairs and the Mainland Affairs Council, given the complex and unique relations between Taiwan and China.

The situation was even more complex because the Taiwan government is the majority shareholder of TB's parent company, Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp. Imagine what it's like and what the political implication will be when a state-controlled Taiwanese team plays in a Chinese league with teams from other provinces.

The CTBA, SAC and Mainland Affairs Council people are not stupid. They know this would be a serious problem and could pose serious ramification in the future.

If TB ends up playing in China, where it chooses its home city will also be a difficult technical issue. It would be easier if it chooses a Chinese city, like what Sina did when it played in Suzhou, as its home court. If it decides to make Taipei its home court, it means that the other 17 Chinese teams will have to fly in Taipei to play their road games against Taiwan Beer. That will make things much more complicated and stir up political debates again.

I talked to CTBA secretary-general Huang Chao-ho about this. Huang said that the CTBA is not happy about TB's plan to bring its top players to China and leave inferior players in Taiwan, saying that "no association would accept an idea like this."

A basketball official also told me that the CTBA has had conversation with Chinese Basketball Management Center, Chinese authority of basketball, about TB's plan earlier this year when the plan first surfaced.

The center said, the official recalled, it would be "almost impossible" for the authority to accept TB's application, basketball management wise, because there are already tons of basketball teams in China, especially in its second division, set their eyes on joining the first division.

"Unless it becomes a political decision that comes down straight from the top, " the Chinese official was quoted as saying, referring to TB's application bid could possibly become a political decision eventually.

Additionally, the announcement looked like a unilateral decision of TB head coach Yen Chia-hwa, who has been known for his intention to bring the team over to China, thinking that the relocation would be able to boost the team's popularity and profitability, after TTL President Duan Wei denied that he was aware of the plan.

My friend Robin Chu, who is currently living in China and works as a basketball columnist, wrote down his observation in these two columns (in Mandarin): "It's not that easy" (沒那麼簡單) and "What's the hurry?" (台啤急什麼? )

Anyway, looks like the attempt will be blocked for now due to its complexity.

However, this attempt did pose serious concerns in the long run. During the past few years there have been more Taiwanese players, such as Chen Hsin-an, Lin Chih-chieh and Lee Hsueh-lin, signing with Chinese teams individually and Taiwanese basketball is in jeopardy of hollowing out.

Now the CTBA fears that it will bring a domino effect if TB does leave Taiwan. Yulon Luxgen has also mentioned bringing the team to China because it serves the interests of its mother corporation Yulon Motors, which has established auto factories in southeastern China.