Former commissioner Eala says PBA 'should act proactively' in restarting sports in PH

Former PBA commissioner Noli Eala said that the league should spearhead efforts in restarting sports in the country.

The PBA, much like all sports leagues across the globe, suspended play in March in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

"The position of the Office of the Commissioner [Willie Marcial] should be proactive in relation to the Board and not wait to see what will happen in our situation, rather to suggest to the government on ways for leagues to restart in this country," he told ESPN5.com in a phone interview.

"I believe that the PBA is a league that many people are following if it's a leader in organization of sports. I think how they go is the way other leagues will go. I don't think they should just be following, I think they should act proactively," he added.

Eala, who headed the league from 2003 to 2007, suggested that multiple options must be available for Marcial to pitch to the Board of Governors once they meet.

Although more expensive, one idea the PBA should consider is the NBA "bubble" concept, Eala said. Fans should still not be allowed in order to minimize contact with the outside world, he added.

"This can include putting maybe 3 groups of 4 in certain areas and to contain them. Get maybe the top 8 teams to compete in another group of 2. There's a lot of ways to do it and couple it with testing of the players and ensuring the minimum health standards will be observed," he explained.

One conference may be more than enough to help reset the calendar, according to Eala.

"I don't see any reason why they should chase the schedule until the end of the year. I think they just need to start again. Even the NBA is going to do that. Because if not, the subsequent schedules may just be reverted and it will just hurt our commitments -- the partnerships that the PBA has with a lot of companies like our TV partners and our sponsors and of course, with the corporate teams."

Eala also said if the PBA resumes play, it could uplift the spirits of Filipinos amid the ongoing pandemic.

"The PBA is is the number one sports-entertainment property in the country. It is the oldest [professional] league outside the NBA. So it has a role to play in bringing back a semblance of normalcy for our communities, for our fans and for our country," Eala said.

"That's why I'm really hoping and I know Commissioner Willie will do what is right, that the PBA will be more proactive, [and] it will present plans. The role of the PBA is [being] more than just a basketball league -- it's part of nation-building."