PBA commissioner Marcial says safety is top priority

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial admitted that the league's 45th season might extend until March or April next year after top officials decided to suspend games indefinitely because of the ongoing threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

But Marcial said the PBA doesn't mind the impact it will have on the schedule and league's finances as it continues to prioritize the general safety of its players, fans and people involved in its operations.

"We're looking at the welfare of everyone. We're not looking at what we're going to lose," Marcial said at a press conference at the league's office in Libis Wednesday.

The Board of Governors unanimously decided to postpone its games "until further notice" in a three-hour meeting Tuesday evening, the same day that the Department of Health (DOH) reported the rise of cases in the country to 33.

Marcial added that the board also looked at the possibility of holding games behind closed door before eventually deciding to err on the side of caution.

"In closed door games, around 300 to 400 people are still going to work: TV operators, officials, players. That doesn't even count members of the media," he explained. "We'll see in the following days what the situation of COVID-19 will be."

The possibility of shortening the schedule was considered by the governors, too, but the commissioner said the PBA's prior commitments won't allow such.

"We have a commitment to certain games and game days and we need to be able to give that. They asked, 'Why can't we make best-of-five series into just a best-of-three?' But we have commitment to sponsors," said Marcial.

In the meantime, teams are allowed to practice by themselves, but are requested to avoid tune-up games with other squads as the league continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation.

"We're going to give them guidelines on things they're supposed to do and not do in their day-to-day schedules," said Marcial. "We're really looking to protect everyone, our players and all of us against COVID-19. I hope everyone prays that this threat subsides."