Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Basketball League this week almost certainly ensures that a professional basketball league will be run across southern Asia. In planning for almost two years a US$5 million backing from Malaysian business tycoons Tony Fernandes of AirAsia and Indonesian media mogul Erick Thoir should see the league commence in September this year. The goal is to boost the mainstream popularity of basketball which, according to organizers of the new league, is already the second most popular team sport behind football.
Fernandes believes using overseas professional players will help increase the competitiveness and skills of the local ASEAN players. Fernandes said, “The aim is to develop local talent. Foreign players from outside ASEAN will be role models. Maybe one day our players will play in the NBA.”
Singapore’s The Straits Times quoted secretary general of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), Patrick Baumann, as saying “Asia was ready for a professional league but warned organizers will have to ensure it doesn’t fade away after a few years. The time is right but it is not going to be simple to sustain the league”. He further added that “there has to be good entertainment. The clubs need to be managed professionally and well funded. You cannot have the league for one or two years and then stop.”
Addressing concerns over the current financial crisis and its possible impact on the launch of the league Fernandes said, “Yes, there will be a lot of obstacles and road blocks. But no mountain will stop us. During an economic downturn like now, this new league will create jobs.”
The composition of the league is still under discussion however it is expected that at least eight teams will part of the series this year. Each nation will be permitted a maximum of two privately owned teams. Other details including prize money, sponsorship and number of games is still in planning. The league will be organised by the South-east Asian Basketball Association which governs basketball across the region.
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Singapore Slingers are expected to be one of the first confirmed teams in the new competition. Bob Turner, CEO of the Slingers, said “We are definitely very interested. We believe that this will take the sport to the next level and we hope to confirm our entry as soon as possible.”
The league is tentatively scheduled to start in September 2009 and continue until February 2010. It will initially consist of eight teams that will play on a home-and-away basis. The champion will be the last team standing after a knock-out playoff round.