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PBA chairman Ricky Vargas says league's Clark bubble to cost P65 million

The PBA bubble will be coming with a hefty price tag.

After refusing to disclose the exact amount earlier this week, chairman Ricky Vargas said Saturday that the league will spend around P65 million in order to safely resume the 2020 season in Clark, Pampanga.

"The commissioner has always stayed away from that question, but I'll tell you. It's close to 65 million [pesos]," he said on the Power & Play radio show hosted by former commissioner Noli Eala. "Ang pinakamalaking parte sa cost is the accommodation and the food."

Vargas said the sum might have been larger if the league wasn't able to enlist help from generous benefactors.

"We got a lot of discounts on the venue," he said.

"Thanks to Clark, even the testing now is for free," added Vargas, who also shared that the league will be doing antigen tests before and after games and before the whole PBA delegation enters the bubble. "We formed a committee headed by Dr. (Raul) Canlas."

Aside from the cost, other factors considered by the PBA Board of Governors, according to Vargas, are safety - "Do they have space for us to assure safety?" he said -- appropriate medical facilities, facilities for playing and mental well-being, and strong connectivity since games will be broadcasted.

Vargas said working for Clark City was the fact that it had its own golf course, police force, hospitals and other quarantine and medical protocols.

The chairman, however, said the league will still comply with rules laid down by higher authorities.

"More importantly, we will accede to whatever the IATF says in terms of protocols that they would like to add or ask us to abide with," he said.

As of posting, the IATF has yet to act on the PBA's request to resume inter-team scrimmages, as well as the league's approval for holding the bubble itself.

"We have our fingers crossed," said Vargas. "At the end of the day, sabi nga nila we need to follow all the IATF and the Department of Health protocols. And we will do that. We will patiently wait for their approval.

"I think isa lang naman ang concern nila: huwag magkahawaan so we can also protect the people outside the bubble or inside the bubble, so we don't create another [outbreak]. And we appreciate that very much."

Entering, opting out of bubble

Only 25 people per team will be allowed to enter the bubble, and this excludes family members, said Vargas.

Once anyone enters the bubble, there is no way out without suffering heavy sanctions.

"They cannot leave, they cannot go. If they leave, they're out. They cannot return. That's the bubble itself," he said.

Players who will leave the bubble for family emergencies will not be allowed back, and anyone who leaves the bubble will lose his salary for a month, be fined P100,000 and will receive a five-game suspension for the following season.

However, Vargas said an opt-out can be negotiated by players between management before entering the bubble.

"Kung nasa bubble ka na, if you opt out that will come with some penalties we will impose on the player. Kung mag-o-opt out ka bago ng bubble, that's a contractual issue that will have to be discussed with the team itself as well," he said.

Next season?

Vargas is also optimistic that the PBA and other leagues can start their next seasons given the abundance of 'bubble' options that officials can choose from.

"Maraming models that we can work with. And if we follow those models, I foresee that sports will be back," he said.

In the meantime, however, the chairman said all eyes are on the benefits that the resumption of the season will bring in the near future.

"Balik-trabaho, buhay ang PBA even if we have to spend for it, even if we have to take some money from our equity, even if we have to get lower shares in the equity," he said. "Ang sabi ng mga team owners and PBA governors, this is about time that we give it back to our fans who we think will appreciate it most when we bring back the PBA."

"This is a sport that most of us love, that the whole country loves. Bringing it back on the air is a win not only for the entertainment value but from a mental health and economic [standpoint]," Vargas