East Asia league set to take off

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The launch is set over a year away but East Asia Super League (EASL) CEO Matt Beyer isn’t sitting around waiting for time to pass in laying the groundwork for what could become one of the world’s most watched basketball stages with a potential audience of two billion.

Beyer’s dream is to create a regional rivalry involving the two top clubs from China, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines with the goal of elevating the quality of basketball competition that fans will enjoy. He has tested the concept through four events and 74 games in Macau over the last three years with encouraging results. Beyer, an American who lives in Hong Kong, broke ground with a five-day tournament called Summer Super 8 in Macau in 2017 and organized a second edition the next year. Then, he introduced another joust called Terrific 12, also in Macau, in 2018 and did a repeat last year. The media impact from the four tournaments was astounding with the 2019 Terrific 12 registering 117 million views. From the Summer Super 8 and Terrific 12 experience, Beyer is moving forward to the next level where eight teams will play a home-and-away series to culminate in a Final Four with the champion pocketing a $1 million prize.

To prepare for EASL’s launch, Beyer has bolstered his front office by appointing former NBA China and UFC Asia managing director Mark Fischer as chief commercial officer. The other day, Beyer announced that Ever Bilena CEO and Blackwater PBA team owner Dioceldo Sy has agreed to represent EASL as business development consultant for the Philippines. To cement the league’s foundations, EASL introduced two livestream shows “Ballerific” and “Terrific Together” in social media last June with a combined reach of over 4.4 million so far.

“We need to increase firepower in the Philippines,” said Beyer. “We consider Mr. Sy an astute businessman with a heart for the game. We’re excited to work with Mr. Sy in bringing EASL closer to the PBA which we’ve invited to participate in our league.” For his part, Sy said his involvement is “my own small way to help the Philippines find its place on the international stage as part of EASL which I envision to become one of the top basketball leagues in the world.”

The EASL is scheduled to kick off in October 2021. Each of the eight contending teams will play three home and three away games on an average frequency of once a month so as not to disrupt commitments with domestic leagues. After the elimination round, the top four placers will advance to play in the Final Four with the championship game set in February 2022. Macau will be the inaugural venue for the Final Four. Other countries will take turns to host the succeeding Final Fours.

“The four countries will bring in their champion and runner-up clubs,” said Beyer. “The PBA is unique in that it has three conferences a season so the invitation is open to any of the three champions and three runners-up. Each club may enlist two imports. There will be no restrictions on heritage players. We won’t bother checking passports.”

Beyer said the Philippine proposal of entering two teams of Gilas pool players will go against the concept of assembling the top two clubs of each participating country. “If a club wants to change the composition of its lineup, that would be fine for as long as the identity of the team as a champion or runner-up remains,” he said. “So in the Philippine case, a champion or runner-up club may add Gilas pool players to the roster. We want to preserve the character and integrity of EASL as a league where the top clubs of China, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines play.” FIBA has sanctioned EASL for 10 years with the option to extend to another five. In 2023, EASL plans to expand to 16 teams with the top four clubs from each of the four participating countries.


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