In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the B. League will relax some of its regulations on player registrations for the upcoming 2020-21 season, the men’s professional basketball circuit decided through Tuesday’s meeting for the board of directors.
One of the major changes concerns import players. Currently, teams are able to sign up to three foreign players (this year the league also began allowing teams to sign a fourth import, provided he’s from an Asian country). But in light of travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the league will make a special exception and allow teams to sign an additional import if a player who has been signed is unable to enter Japan.
The additional player would be able to stay with the team for up to one month after the player who was initially denied entry is allowed into Japan.
According to the league, roughly 60 percent of import players, and a little less than 90 percent of non-Japanese staff, signed with B. League clubs have not been able to enter Japan.
“It’s recently been speculated that the criteria for those with (re-entry visas) will start being relaxed next month and we’ve been communicating with government officials,” Shingo Kazuno, who is the director of the competition operations for the league, said in an online media briefing following the meeting. “But as of late, we don’t have information as to exactly when it will begin.”
The league will also relax a contract condition for Japanese players.
Normally, teams have been able to sign players through the end of June, the official end of the league year. But due to the possibility of teams losing players who become infected with the virus during the season, that clause will be eliminated. Meaning clubs can sign players to short-term deals to fill any voids that may occur.
The league also announced it would stick to its initial plan to limit the number of fans in arenas at the start of the 2020-21 campaign. Government guidelines state organizers can either operate venues as half-capacity or cap the number of people allowed inside at 5,000.
The league will ask spectators to be diligent about recording and saving their seat numbers to help aid contract-tracing efforts in the event of an infection.
“We are a professional league with professional players competing,” B. League Chairman Shinji Shimada said. “While we have to face a difficult situation, we would like to proceed to play as much as possible.”
The league also revealed a new partnership with the J. League for video production with the intention of providing official videos and movies in higher quality.
“Because of the impact of the coronavirus, we think the importance of our official videos will increase,” Shimada said, assuming that many of his league’s boosters will have to watch games at home on television this season. “Taking advantage of the know-how of the J. League, we would like to improve the quality of our B. League videos. I’m very much looking forward to being able to provide videos that can satisfy our fans.”