CBA launches raft of new measures including landmark ticketing platform

Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming during the press conference for the CBA league 2018-19 at Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China. (Photo by Xinyu Cui/Getty Images)

The Chinese Basketball Association has made several changes to the new 2019-20 domestic league, hoping to bring back basketball fans after the national team’s poor performance at last month’s Fiba World Cup.

China’s national team won just one game in the first group stage of the tournament, which was hosted in eight Chinese cities. The hosts eventually finished 24th out of 32 teams, its worst-ever World Cup performance, and missed out on Asia’s only direct qualification spot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

At a season-launching ceremony in Beijing this week, Yao Ming, the CBA chairman and league president, said: “The national team’s disappointing World Cup campaign hits us with a tough reality: our domestic league should take major responsibility for the lack of talent supply to the national program.”

“The changes we’ve made might not necessarily yield quick results. Instead, we should focus on consistent investment and effort over the long run to eventually make the league the top professional sports competition in our country.”

The CBA has also claimed a first for a professional sports league in China with the launch of an official ticketing platform. The league will work with Alibaba-owned entertainment ticketing platform Damai Sports on the CBAtickets.com initiative, which will allow fans to either purchase tickets or watch games online through streaming partner Youku Sports.

It is hoped the service will help the league transition to a paperless ticket system, simultaneously improving the fan experience and the overall image of the CBA. A new Damai Sports store, complete with a dedicated CBA zone, will also open as part of the agreement.

Damai Sports has previously provided ticketing services for the Fiba World Cup in China and the Wuhan Military Games.

Wang Dawei, the CBA’s chief executive, announced a new slogan “Dare To Dream, and Dare To Play” for the league, and several changes, including:

  • flexibility on tip-off times to cater to broadcasting and marketing partners
  • an extension of the regular season to a lighter schedule of eight games every three weeks to allow players to recover
  • new regulations to improve the standard of officiating
  • five full-time professional referees have been hired
  • salaries of part-time officials will be increased by over 30 per cent
  • harsher measures on technical and unsportsmanlike fouls, with the maximum of three-game suspensions.
  • the introduction of video replays
  • a lottery system similar to the National Basketball Association’s will be implemented at next season’s CBA draft to randomly decide player selections for teams that miss the playoffs.

Last week, the CBA also announced that starting from the 2020-21 season, the league will cap domestic players’ salaries and further limit the use of foreign players, aimed at pushing Chinese players to increase their standards and bolster the quality of the league.

The initial cap on salaries will start at around ¥36m, ($5.1m) per team, but clubs will be given a buffer of ¥12m. Individual salaries must not exceed 25 per cent of the cap, and any contract exceeding ¥9m will trigger a large fine similar to the NBA’s “luxury tax”. These teams pay a penalty for each dollar their team salary exceeds the tax level.

Currently this season each team is allowed to have two foreign players on the court at any given time, but this will be cut to one from the 2020-21 season, though each franchise will be allowed to sign a maximum of four foreigners onto their roster, up from two this year.

The new season begins on November 1 with defending champion Southern Tigers taking on 2018 champions Liaoning Flying Leonards.