[PHOTO - Members of the PBA board headed by Rene Pardo of B-Meg Derby Ace (fourth from right) will be joined by the team owners in a rare meeting to tackle important matters concerning the league. PHOTO COURTESY OF GMANews.TV]

MANILA, JANUARY 25, 2011 (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson - It’s not often that the PBA franchise owners get together to discuss issues as a collegial body but the once-in-a-blue-moon gathering will happen at 12 noon today in the Sampaguita Room of the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel.

PBA media bureau chief Willy Marcial couldn’t recall when was the last time an owners meeting was held. Maybe, it was nearly 20 years ago during PBA commissioner Rudy Salud’s time (1988-92), said Marcial. If it was last convened during Salud’s tenure, how appropriate that the owners are being reassembled with his son Chito now the commissioner.

Chito Salud is the PBA’s eighth commissioner after Leo Prieto (1975-83), Col. Mariano Yenko (1983-87), Salud (1988-92), Rey Marquez (19992-93), Jun Bernardino (1993-2002), Noli Eala (2003-07) and Sonny Barrios (OIC in 2007-08, 2008-10).

Before the owners come together, the PBA will hold a Board of Governors meeting at 11 a.m. also in the Sampaguita Room. The main item in the Board agenda is the creation of the D-League. Then, the owners will join the Board at a lunch meeting after which a press conference is scheduled in the adjoining Camia Room.

Expected to attend the owners meeting are San Miguel Corp. vice chairman and president Ramon Ang representing San Miguel Beer, B-Meg and Ginebra San Miguel, PLDT chairman Manny V. Pangilinan representing Talk ‘N’ Text and Meralco, Alaska president Fred Uytengsu representing the Aces, Air21 chairman Bert Lina representing the Express, Coca-Cola Export director for public affairs and communication J. B. Baylon representing Powerade, Rain Or Shine owners Terry Que and Raymond Yu and Barako Bull owner George Chua.

The three main topics in the agenda of the owners meeting are the issue of whether or not the PBA should pursue a plan to build and own its own stadium, the issue of how to deal with the Philippine national team particularly as it is now evident that Smart Gilas will request for PBA reinforcements whenever there is a major international competition and the issue of selecting a new TV coveror starting next season. Another issue that may be taken up is the case of Barako Bull which is planning to sit out the second and third conferences.

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“I expect specific and definitive resolutions and directives to be arrived at by the team owners in their meeting,” said Salud. “This meeting is something I’ve been looking forward to. The team owners have not met for quite some time. This is certainly going to be positive for the league.”

The first item will look into the viability of the PBA owning its own facility. The NBA, by the way, doesn’t own its own stadium for obvious reasons – the franchises take care of their own.

There is talk that the 15,000-seat, state-of-the-art arena being constructed by the SM Group near the Mall of Asia will cost at least P2 billion to complete by next year when National University hosts the UAAP season and the amount doesn’t include the value of the property. In the PBA’s case, it will buy a property then construct a building in a multi-billion peso project – if this alternative is approved by the owners. Possible sites are a space on Shaw Boulevard, a lot near the Trinoma Mall in Quezon City and a property at the corner of Quezon Avenue and EDSA.

My view is the investment is too costly to load on the PBA. There is no compelling reason to sink in billions in a project when there are more imaginative ways to solve the problem of a reliable venue without taxing PBA team owners excessively. Why not work out a schedule where the PBA games are mainly played at the Araneta Coliseum and the MOA stadium with the Cuneta Astrodome, the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig and the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo as other options? Fans are comfortable watching games at the Big Dome which is extremely accessible to commuters. As for the MOA stadium, perhaps a deal may be arranged where the SM Group becomes a major PBA partner as a sponsor of a conference or season or even a franchise owner.

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The PBA’s participation in the national squad may boil down to a sacrifice on the part of the franchises which will be tapped for players to lend to Smart Gilas. It appears providential that Smart Gilas, Talk ‘N’ Text and Meralco are controlled by a common owner. So that in the end, the Tropa and Bolts could be the only teams affected by the lending process. If the rumors are true, Talk ‘N’ Text is ready to lend Jimmy Alapag, Ryan Reyes, Kelly Williams and Ranidel de Ocampo while Meralco will give up Asi Taulava. In that eventuality, perhaps the PBA Board will agree to bring back Japeth Aguilar to active duty with Talk ‘N’ Text even before the FIBA-Asia Championships this year.

Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman said it’s important for the national team to keep playing as a unit for chemistry purposes. Competing in the second and third conferences this season will be just what the doctor ordered for Smart Gilas. There’s no reason why Smart Gilas shouldn’t be allowed to play as Smart Gilas in place of Barako Bull. And the word is if the owners agree, the national team will yield its rights to ticket and TV revenues to Barako Bull as a gesture of assistance to the ailing franchise.

As for the TV coveror, the PBA has a lot of options to consider. GMA-7 is reportedly proposing a co-production with the PBA to air the games on QTV which is undergoing a reformat. ABC-5 is also interested in producing the games, perhaps to show on another channel. ABS-CBN is in the equation, too.

A topic that may be added to the discussion is the re-visiting of the PBA constitution. “A thorough review needs to be done touching on the change to a corporate structure, longer term limits for the PBA chairman and commissioner and other legal issues,” said a former PBA official. Perhaps, the next owners meeting can tackle other vital issues such as the salary cap, sports betting and transparency when it comes to trades.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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