Toshimitsu Kawachi, the bj-league commissioner, said that the organizing committee for a unified professional basketball league in Japan has discussed things “constructively.”
But he also said, “we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
It sounds like the future is still cloudy. But one thing is for sure: The clock is ticking and the FIBA-imposed deadline is still Oct. 31.
The Japan Basketball Association is facing a ban from FIBA for international activities, so it is working to resolve one of the major issues that basketball’s world governing body has demanded that it must fix: a merger between its basketball leagues.
For the aforementioned deadline, the JBA must at least show FIBA that it is going to start a new professional league by combining the NBL and bj-league, the country’s top two men’s hoop circuits.
And at the JBA board meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the organizing committee submitted a draft outline. Now it’s a matter of all the entities, including all the clubs of the NBL (13 current squads) and bj-league (22), reaching an agreement on the proposal.
It seems like the biggest challenge — as was expected in a sense — would be how to persuade the corporate-owned NBL teams to become full-fledged professional clubs.
Based on the merger blueprint that the organizing committee has turned in, all the teams are asked to have managing companies, whose main business is basketball. So the NBL’s company teams, such as Toyota, Aisin and Toshiba, would be required to create subsidiary companies for basketball operations in the new league.
The committee also stated that corporate names should not be attached to the team names.
Judging the intimations of JBA chairman Yasuhiko Fukatsu, NBL COO Mitsuru Maruo and Kawachi, the corporate teams are still resisting these ideas.
“The three entities (JBA, NBL and bj-league) have discussed these matters in a sincere manner,” Fukatsu said at a news conference in Tokyo. “But as of today, we can announce nothing that is official.”
Fukatsu added that the organizing committee had not received the understanding from both leagues and their clubs in terms of the conditions for participation in a unified league.
“In our draft, we want to proceed to go with the franchise names plus the nicknames,” Fukatsu said. “But there are strong demands from the corporate teams that they want to (use) their corporate names.”
Fukatsu suggested that, although the committee would pursue to obtain agreements from both leagues and their clubs, he didn’t exclude the possibility that some of the teams would not join the new league.
Meanwhile, Kawachi, who inaugurated the bj-league, Japan’s first-ever professional basketball league, in 2005, insisted that obeying the principles for the unified league would be more important than the corporate-name talk.
In the past, for instance, some of the powerhouse teams owned by major companies were forced to disband despite their success on the floor in Japan, and that’s obviously not good for the promotion of the sport in the nation.
“I’ve experienced it (in the old JBL) myself,” said Kawachi, adding that teams would last longer with the support from fans and towns instead of companies.
A new unified league is actually one of three things FIBA has ordered the JBA to improve, along with the governance of the JBA and strengthening the national teams. But if the JBA will sort out this league issue, it will then clear the governance problem while it will also make a difference for the national squads with the new circuit, which would start in the 2016-17 season.
Kawachi said that the organizing committee would have two more meetings this month and plan to submit a memorandum to FIBA before the deadline.
Patrick Baumann, FIBA’s secretary general, is scheduled to arrive in Japan this week for the FIBA 3×3 World Tour Final in Sendai, and organizing committee executives are expected to meet him there.
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