Disunity in interpretation

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2021 - 12:00am

You can’t blame the MPBL for classifying players from the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup as pros and therefore, subject to eligibility limitations. Under MPBL rules, a team is allowed to recruit up to seven ex-pros with five to play in a game. With the proliferation of PBA veterans looking for teams, it now becomes a little more difficult for VisMin players to join the MPBL because slots are limited. Rules are rules and since the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup is a pro league under GAB supervision, the MPBL can’t consider its players amateur.

GAB chairman Baham Mitra thought of an innovative way to skirt the limitation by offering to issue Special Guest Licenses (SGLs) for players to remain amateur even if they see action in a pro league during this pandemic. UP’s Juan Gomez de Liaño, for instance, availed of the SGL to play in the Chooks To Go 3x3 pro league last year. But while the SGL is a window of opportunity, it isn’t recognized by either the MPBL or UAAP. The NCAA, however, recognizes it. This kind of disunity in interpretation confuses athletes and it’s a major reason why standouts are fed up with the politics in Philippine sports. It’s the reason why Wesley So abandoned the Philippine chess team, took out US citizenship and now plays for his adopted country. It’s also the reason why volleyball star Jaja Santiago is seriously considering to accept an offer to play as a naturalized Japanese citizen.

The UAAP rule is an athlete may play as an individual in a non-pro league with a cut-off of Season 82. Starting Season 82, athletes may compete in a non-pro league only if they play as a school team.

MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes said once an athlete plays in a pro league like the VisMin Super Cup, that means he has crossed the bridge and there is no turning back. “Pro status pa rin sila pag naglaro sa amateur leagues like UAAP, NCAA and MPBL,” he said.

Mitra said although the MPBL isn’t declared to be a pro league, it actually is. “The MPBL pays their players and based on the PSC and GAB joint resolution, anybody who is paid and not playing for the flag is a pro,” he said.

Mitra said there should be no distinction between VisMin Super Cup and MPBL players because according to the joint resolution, they’re all pros. He said in this pandemic, leagues should be open to options that allow athletes to play under IATF guidelines. But the MPBL is firm about its amateur status in order to harness developmental players from the grassroots and collegiate stars.

The MPBL rule has caused at least four players to pull out from VisMin Super Cup rosters. Two MPBL teams are in the VisMin Super Cup and some MPBL club owners are hooked up with LGUs in supporting VisMin Super Cup squads so there appears to be some conflict of interest. VisMin Super Cup chief operating officer Rocky Chan said, “Why don’t we help each other out and give players a venue for them to earn continuously? At this point in time, pro or amateur makes no difference, what’s important is we can start something despite this pandemic … a venue that Filipinos can watch the sport they love and put a little smile on their faces even in this crisis.”

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