The B. League made the difficult decision to put its regular season on hold from this weekend through March 11 amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the pro basketball circuit announced Wednesday.
As a result, 99 games in the first and second divisions will not take place as currently scheduled. During a news conference at the league office on Wednesday night, B. League chairman Masaaki Okawa said the postseason schedule “is likely” to at least be shortened in order to make up the postponed contests.
The regular season was originally supposed to end April 19, with the eight-team postseason kicking off the following weekend. The first and semifinal rounds of the playoffs are played in a best-of-three format.
The one-game league championship contest is set to be held May 9 at Yokohama Arena.
Okawa hinted that in the worst-case scenario, the first two rounds of the playoffs could be canceled. In that case, the two teams with the highest winning percentages in the regular season would meet in the final.
He also said playing two rounds in a single-elimination format was another possibility.
The league reached Wednesday’s decision after requests from the government to limit large gatherings and meetings with club representatives on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Okawa said the league had other options, such as canceling games or playing behind closed doors, but ended up choosing to suspend games in order to minimize the financial damage for the league and its clubs.
Each B1 team has 21 games remaining.
Okawa said if the remaining games on the B1 and B2 schedules were canceled, the financial damage is estimated to be around “¥6 billion.”
“Compared to professional baseball (NPB), which has a history of more than 80 years, and the J. League, which has played for a quarter of a century since its inception, our B. League is still in its infancy period, playing in its fourth season,” Okawa said. “So our financial base is not firm yet.”
The league hopes to resume the season on March 14 but will continue to monitor the situation regarding the virus. Okawa stressed that the impact of canceling the remaining regular-season games would be what “blows up everything the B. League has established over the last three years” financially.
“Being in my position (as the chairman), it was my ultimate point of view to not let all 36 clubs of the B1 and B2 go bankrupt,” Okawa said.
Okawa said booking arenas for makeup dates in May would be “extremely difficult.”
The third division of the league announced on Wednesday that it would suspend its regular season through May 12.
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