Market forces

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star
Market forces
What makes it even more interesting is the use of the Special Guest License or SGL.

MANILA, Philippines — It’s a great time to be a basketball player. Regardless of your age, there is a high demand for talent right now. More so with the overlap between the Pilipinas Super League regular season and the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League pre-season, there’s even a tug-of -war over some players. Let’s face it: a painfully small fraction of players can make it to the Philippine Basketball Association or even foreign leagues. But if you still have a lot of game in you, and you know no other way to make a living, then you will find your way into these leagues, which, frankly, have a very high level of competitiveness.

What makes it even more interesting is the use of the Special Guest License or SGL. This is issued by the Games and Amusements Board to allow amateur players to participate in professional leagues without forfeiting their status. One team can have up to three collegiate players with SGLs, for example. In rare cases, an entire team may be granted SGLs, since they do not intend to become permanent members of the league that they are playing in. This benefits the varsity players by helping them mature faster against older, more seasoned opponents. It is also an acknowledgment that they have a clear path towards basketball as a means of earning a living, and can accelerate their growth.

Of course, it also creates scenarios wherein pros who’ve been around since the 1990’s find themselves playing against youngsters who weren’t even born then. This pricks the pride of the elders, and they go out of their way to show the whippersnappers a thing or two before finally hanging up their sneakers. Veterans like Mong Basco, Macky Acosta, Jayjay Helterbrand, Reynel Hugnatan and others will be damned if they would give ground to these student-athletes while they still have some fight left in them.

These market forces are great and all that, but at the same time, players – and their teams – have a responsibility to respect any and all agreements that they sign. We’re all for getting the best possible deal considering the limited career an athlete has. But they should honor any contract until it is finished. The PSL made room for teams in the MPBL playoffs to complete their campaigns before joining. It’s the proper – and professional – way to do business. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Some players try to fit both leagues into their schedules, and there is always the inevitable overlap. The PSL has already suspended a couple of players for doing just that, without even bothering to ask permission. This seems so illogical, since all the games of each league broadcast. Do you not think you’ll get caught?

This is a conversation the players, teams and leagues should have among themselves. You can’t treat one league that treated you well as a pit stop for the other. Contracts are legally binding documents, so there are consequences for violating them. It only sets one precedent to start an avalanche of legal problems. God forbid that anyone gets banned or even penalized with fines or incarceration. When you think about it, they were naively trying to game the system to squeeze possible deal for themselves. That probably went about it the wrong way.

This is not a problem that can be ignored regardless of who inadvertently benefits. It paints a bad picture. The benefits are only temporary, but the harm it can do to the game can be long-term.

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