After several speculations on potentially reopening the Chinese Basketball Association tournament, the league official finally announced its official plans to restart the games on June 20th. The league was in an indefinite period of suspension in January because of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The Chinese Basketball Association made the announcement via its official Weibo, citing that the reopening proposal had been approved by Sports and Health authorities in the country.
The CBA is the first major sports tournament to reopen in China. On the contrary, the country’s top football league Chinese Super League has yet to announce its potential reopening schemes.
The top-level Chinese basketball tournament has 16 rounds of regular-season games remaining before its suspension prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The remaining games will be played in two Chinese cities, Dongguan and Qingdao. 20 CBA teams will be divided into two groups to play in the two cities. All teams will be required to comply with local public health regulations and authorities.
ESPN reported that the CBA plans to wrap up its regular season in a 15-day period. The regular season is expected to finish by July 4th. There will be 4 to 6 games each day.
According to the South China Morning Post, CBA planned to restart as early as in mid-April, but such proposals were rejected by the General Administration for Sports and Centre for Disease Control.
While the league is scheduled to restart the games, many of the teams’ foreign players are still banned from entering China. Citing reasons to control the pandemic, Chinese border authorities had started to ban foreigners to enter the country since late March. The CBA league is implementing some changes over the use of foreign players. For teams with two foreign players available, they may only have foreign players to play five quarters in total against teams with only one foreign player, and four quarters in total against teams that are only sending Chinese players into the game. Teams such as the Beijing Ducks are in a better-prepared shape as the two foreign players, Jeremy Lin and Ekpe Udoh are both back in China and started to practice with the rest of the players. Other teams are not so lucky: Liaoning Flying Leopards, facing difficulty in communicating with its foreign players in returning to China, was forced to sign O.J Mayo as a backup foreign player to finish the season. Following his NBA suspensions, Mayo spent the past two years in various overseas leagues and teams.
The games are expected to take place without spectators in the arenas. The policy is consistent with those in other professional sports that decided to resume their games. The German football league Bundesliga and Korean football league K-League are both playing without any fans in the stadium.
Chinese media Sina Sports revealed more details of the efforts made to bring the CBA back. The league and the Chinese Basketball association made several proposals to resume the games starting in April, and after rounds of talks among officials, the CBA league is finally scheduled to return in June.
As the impacts of previous suspensions continue, the league is encouraging teams to review their salary compensation and encourage teams to consider pay cuts to maintain their operation and finance status. Sina Sports reported that teams are taking 25% to 35% cuts on players’ and senior management staffs’ salaries.
It remains uncertain how the playoff games are scheduled. The CBA league officials are also keeping the pending Olympic qualification games in mind, The Chinese national men’s basketball team will need to fight for its opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics following its disappointing results in the 2019 FIBA World Cup tournament.