HomeNewsEventsBasketballSouth-East Asia

Asean Basketball League denies shutdown reports

Tyshawn Jamar Taylor of Saigon Heat goes to the basket against #55 Michael Holyfield of Hong Kong Eastern during the ASEAN Basketball League game between Hong Kong Eastern and Saigon Heat at Southorn Stadium on January 21, 2020 in Hong Kong. (Photo by Yu Chun Christopher Wong/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

The multi-territory Asean Basketball League has denied reports last week that it is on the verge of closing.

Several media outlets had reported that the league’s chief operating officer Jericho Ilagan said he and his staff had not been contacted by the league’s other senior officials since the 2019-20 season was suspended on March 13 due to Covid-19. Ilagan said that all the staff had been laid off at that point.

Questions were also raised over the ability of the league’s main sponsor, Malaysian airline AirAsia, to continue supporting the league. AirAsia has suffered heavy losses due to the pandemic.

League leaders Mono Vampire, from Thailand, announced their withdrawal from the league and suspension of all operations after the March 13 shutdown.

ESPN said at the weekend that ABL minority owner and official of Vietnamese team Saigon Heat, Connor Nguyen, told it: “There is no plan of shutting down the ABL, so not sure where that came from. But someone put it out there and I guess the rest just ran with that. Once again, people are drawing some conclusions and trying to connect some things that are not really related.”

Nguyen said that the league was “financially stable” and AirAsia’s financial position had “nothing to do with ABLs situation”. He said that the league’s staff had been laid off as a cost-cutting measure. “We can’t run an international league now for some time, so we won’t employ staff without work.”

Nguyen also said that reports that Chinese Taipei teams the Formosa Dreams and Fubon Braves had left the league to join a new domestic league were misleading. He said the teams could compete in both their domestic league and the ABL.

ABL co-owner and Singapore Slingers team co-owner Wee Siem Kew told The Straits Times that the league plans to continue, perhaps resuming the 2019-20 season in early 2021:  “The ABL owners want the league to carry on, and there is a lot of interest from the teams to continue. The ABL has helped develop and take basketball in the region to the next level, it has built a strong following, and it is here to stay.”

The 2019-20 ABL season was the league’s tenth. It had 10 teams – two each from Chinese Taipei and Macau, and one each from Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The league began in 2009 with six teams from Asean, and was gradually expanded to include teams from outside Southeast Asia.