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Friday, Feb. 12, 2010
JBA sketches out plans for bj-league, JBL merger
By ED ODEVEN
The Japan Basketball Association has come up with a 10-step outline for the creation of a new professional men's league in 2013.
The details are still sketchy, however, and no deals have been finalized yet. But the JBA is beginning to make preparations for the future.
"The topic of a merger is not something new," a JBA official said in a recent phone interview. "We have been talking about it for a while now and it isn't something that has suddenly come up in the last few months or anything like that.
"We have formed a board to talk about forming a new league, keeping in mind what is best for the future of basketball in Japan. Right now we have two leagues with two different operations. To further expand and spread the sport in this country, we are aiming to build a 'next generation's league' by 2013.
"This is not a merger, nor is it one league absorbing the other. It is about forming a completely new entity. We have only just agreed at the Japan Basketball Association last month that this is what will take place and we have yet to explain it to all the teams involved. We have a lot of talking and hearings to do before this can happen."
It's unknown, of course, how many teams will join the proposed new league. There are currently eight teams in the JBL's top division. The bj-league, which began in the fall of 2005 with six teams, has 13 teams now and three expansion franchises have been awarded for the 2010-11 season.
(The bj-league is also actively seeking prospective candidates for new expansion teams for the 2011-12 season. So one can remain skeptical about how interested the bj-league really is about scrapping everything and becoming part of a new league in the near future.)
For starters, the JBA's 10-step framework, which was created last month, cites its underlying purpose:
"To create a competitive environment for cultivating skilled players, to create a strong national team which can constantly win berths in world championships and Olympic Games, to overall improve the competitive power of basketball in Japan. At the same time, spread and promote the sport in Japan and present games that are interesting and exciting for the fans."
The JBA's first big step would involve interleague games — no indication if they would be exhibitions or regular-season contests — between the JBL and bj-league in 2010. More details are expected in March.
These interleague games will give the two leagues their first on-court competition ever. Call it a necessary first step.
"As for all the teams in both leagues, we would like them to participate in these interleague games so they can get a feel for what the other league's games are like and through this experience we hope they can decide themselves if they wish to be a part of the next generation top league," the JBA news release stated.
The JBA is considering two options for the new league's basic structure.
"One is a European league model type which will have a top- and sub-league between which there will be promotion-relegation games played. The other is close to the U.S. (NBA) model where all the teams will be in one top league divided into conferences," the news released stated.
"The final decision on which structure to choose will be made based upon what will be the best for strengthening Japan basketball, and also which is more attractive for the fans. The decision will be made once the participating teams are decided."
An independent corporation under the JBA umbrella would be established to run the new league.
Other specifics of the blueprint include the following requirements for teams to join the new league:
• Capable of autonomously running a business operation.
• Have a specific home area and organize a cooperative relationship with locals.
• Maintain the required competitive power as a team.
• Have a transparent financial ground that is over the set standard.
• In principle, the team name must carry the local town name.
Analyzing the financial holdings of teams in the JBL and the bj-league, the JBA noted that annual operating budgets per team range from ¥250 million to ¥500 million. That said, the JBA is considering "allotting income from ticket sales and money distributed from the league body to cover the personnel fees, which is the biggest component of team expenditures."
Look for a comprehensive Hoop Scoop column on this topic in the coming days.