The B. League announced Saturday night that its All-Star festivities, slated for the weekend of Jan. 15-16 in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, have been canceled after local authorities denied the league permission to hold the event.
The news came only one day after the professional basketball circuit had decided to move forward with the annual Winter Classic at Adastria Mito Arena despite a new state of emergency that began Friday in Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama Prefectures.
Mito is home of the second-division Ibaraki Robots.
According to the league, Mito asked to call the event off after it had been designated by Ibaraki prefecture as a COVID-19 hotspot due to the rising number of infections, further citing expectations that fans across the nation would attend the All-Star Game.
B. League Chairman Shinji Shimada told an online media briefing on Sunday that Mito originally asked the league to consider canceling the event on Friday before adopting a firmer tone the following day.
“Obviously, the situation is getting worse in Ibaraki Prefecture, and we understand that Mito made its decision based on those circumstances,” Shimada said.
Confirming that the event had been canceled rather than simply postponed, Shimada said that the league could grant the northern Kanto city the 2022-23 All Star Game if it expressed interest in hosting it.
This year’s All-Star weekend had originally been awarded to Okinawa before being relocated to Mito after a typhoon caused delays in the construction of Okinawa’s new arena. Japan’s southern island will host the 2021-22 All-Star Game.
The B. League said Friday that games, which are scheduled to resume on Jan. 23, will continue to be played with the approval of local municipalities.
Shimada stressed that the league would continue to complete the 2020-21 campaign, which is scheduled to end in late May with the conclusion of the finals.
The B. League will follow the government’s state of emergency guidelines, which have placed new restrictions on operating times for restaurants and large-scale events, by adjusting tipoff times and shortening the hours of in-stadium concession stands.
Shimada, the former Chiba Jets Funabashi president who took over as league chairman last summer, insisted that it was key for clubs to keep playing in order to survive the ongoing coronavirus crisis. One third of the 2019-20 season was canceled due to the virus, putting many clubs in difficult financial positions.
“If we have to cancel the season again, I think it’s possible that some clubs will go bankrupt,” Shimada said. “If clubs go out of business, they can’t protect their players and staff, and we can’t accomplish our mission of energizing Japan through basketball.”
All of the B. League’s top-division teams have completed 27 out of 60 scheduled regular-season contests so far.
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