(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Now more than ever, there is a pressing need to examine the relevance of the PBA constitution. The league is 32 years old and has evolved to become an institution, almost a way of life. Because of its widespread popularity, the PBA has a responsibility to its stakeholders to be an enduring source of livelihood, entertainment and national pride.

Immediate past PBA chairman Ricky Vargas says the constitution should be looked into as an immediate priority but the work must be done within the context of a much broader change. The constitution can’t be redone in isolation.

If the vision is to transform the PBA from a “clearing house” into a corporation, then the entire landscape must be reviewed to suit the challenge of the times.

Vargas says if the PBA turns into a corporation, the present-day commissioner will become the president or chief operating officer with commissioners or managers for finance, operations and marketing. The chairman will be the chief executive officer.

To avoid confusion, the duties and responsibilities of the commissioner – or the president – must be clearly spelled out. With the chairman now taking a more active role in defining policies and directions, the PBA can’t afford a situation where the commissioner will stray into territory he might consider to be his turf.

In fact, Vargas says the chairman’s one-year term now appears to be too short.

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“Continuity is essential,” continues Vargas. “The problem is with a one-year term, the chairman is forced to be short-sighted. Hopefully, this will be addressed by a new constitution.”

Vargas has other things in mind for the PBA’s future. His wish list includes setting the stage for team owners to get more personally involved in the league’s affairs, creating more marquee stars or icons in the mold of Sonny Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez, upgrading the standards of officiating, rationalizing the PBA’s participation in international competitions, building and operating its own coliseum, generating a strong merchandising arm, self-producing shows for TV, expanding to 16 teams, reaching out to more global markets and playing a third of the games outside Metro Manila.

Vargas says team owners share a passion for the game and it would be a major boost if they could meet even just twice a year – once before the season and a second time, in the middle of the season – to provide direction for policies set by the Board of Governors.

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No one is in a better position than Vargas to lay the groundwork for the league’s future. He’s coming off a successful term as chairman with rock-solid achievements.

Vargas’ main accomplishment was getting the PBA back on track as a viable, financially-sound and healthy organization. From a nearly zero cash position only two years ago, the PBA finished last season with a balance of close to P60 million, buoyed by a 47 percent growth in income to P86.9 million excluding dividends of P32.7 million paid to teams. All the league’s payables were settled. The PBA paid amusement taxes amounting to P29.3 million and got a clean bill of health from external auditor SGV. Gate receipts increased by 17 percent and core income by nearly 10 percent.

But Vargas says the figures don’t mean a thing if the PBA isn’t geared for the future. A vision propelled by a passion for the game is what will take Asia’s first play-for-pay league to the next level.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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