Basketball / B. League

B. League revises criteria for club licenses due to COVID-19 fallout

by Kaz Nagatsuka

STAFF WRITER

The B. League has decided to relax its criteria for club licenses, at least through the 2020-21 season, the league announced after a board of directors meeting on Tuesday.

The decision was made to help clubs cope with the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could put some in danger of bankruptcy.

Teams will not be required to reach the financial benchmarks in areas such as profits and sales for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. Currently, a team recording a deficit for three consecutive seasons will lose its license. Under the revised rules, the aforementioned two seasons will not be taken into account due to the economic impact of the coronavirus.

This will also apply to net assets for the 2021-2022 campaign. Teams are not usually given excess liability in this area.

There are reportedly over a dozen clubs in the first (B1) and second (B2) divisions expected to be in the red for the 2019-20 season, which was cut short in late March amid the outbreak of the disease.

Teams are also required to play a certain percentage home games — 80 percent for B1 clubs and 60 for B2 teams —as part of the license criteria. This rule will also be relaxed for the 2020-21 season. Under normal circumstances, B1 and B2 teams have to use arenas with capacities of 5,000 and 3,000, respectively.

Urara Sakurai, the league’s club license manager, said the reasoning behind the change is that teams have to pay more to rent bigger arenas.

“Based on the league’s policy to not let a single club go out of business, the arena criterion can’t be a burden and we began considering (excluding it) around March,” she said during an online media briefing. “(Ex-chairman Masaaki) Okawa was on the same page. We think that this could help hold down the expenditures.”

The league officially introduced Shinji Shimada as its new chief this month.

Meanwhile, at a Tokyo news conference Monday, the league revealed that it would have its players, staff and referees undergo PCR tests every two weeks during the season. On Tuesday, it said this would consist of around 880 tests each time.

When asked about the response to players testing positive, a league official made it clear that games will proceed as long as each team has at least eight players and the situation allows for the match to be played.

The league also announced that the top two finishers in B2 next season will be promoted to B1 and that no top-division club will be relegated. As a result, the B1 will compete with 22 teams in the 2021-22 season.

The league also offered a clarification of its new rule regarding players from China, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia. Under the rule, teams can carry an extra foreign player, provided he is from one of the five nations covered by the regulation. While teams are able to have two imports on the floor simultaneously, the designated Asian player does not count against the limit.

Players with dual nationality that includes a nation outside of the five Asian countries are not eligible for the designation. For instance, a player with passports from the Philippines and the United States would not qualify.

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