Asia League mulls home-and-away format for next year's tournament

MACAU -- After a successful run of the East Asia Super League Terrific 12, Asia League CEO Matt Beyer is already looking at the possibility of holding a home-and-away format next year.

Beyer said the home-and-away format is a concept that will be patterned after the UEFA Champions League where top European football club teams compete every year.

Under this setup, Beyer said the tournament will have two small groups featuring four teams each, with the top pro ballclubs coming from Asian countries like Japan, China, South Korea and the Philippines.

But Beyer admits holding such an ambitious tournament will have its own unique challenges.

"We're in the middle of planning right now on how to execute the home and away competition. In fact, I just finished a two-hour meeting with the commissioner of the Japanese B.League and, you know, we talked at length about what was the biggest issue," Beyer said on Sunday.

Discussions with commissioners from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), the Korean Basketball League, the Chinese Basketball Assocation and the Japan B.League reveal the need to agree on a common schedule.

Unlike the KBL, the B.League and the CBA where each of their professional cage season runs uninterrupted for six to seven months, the PBA's case is unique with its three-conference format.

Making things a little bit more complicated is the PBA's involvement with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) in helping prepare the Gilas team for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The SBP intends to come out with a strong Gilas squad four years from now in an effort to redeem the national team's 0-5 record in the recent edition in China.

Beyer, though, remains happy they continue to have an open dialogue with the PBA, hoping that the home -and-away format can push through in the future with the Philippines playing a big part.

"As I've kind of alluded to many times before, there's this issue just with with three conferences in the PBA and now, we all understand that the two-conference model is under discussion and for research right now," shared Beyer.

Beyer believes the PBA is now seeing the gains by having some of its teams compete with some of Asia's top professional clubs.

"(The PBA officials) started to understand more about what kind of people we are and that really what we're trying to do is add value to the overall ecosystem rather than to extract something or take something and be exploiting anyone with what what the resources are," Beyer said.

"We want to see all of the leagues and the Gilas be as strong as possible because at the end of the day, if you look at the World Cup that just finished in China, the next World Cup is going to be in the Philippines, and there's Tokyo Olympics in the middle. These are the top basketball events internationally in the world."

"However, the talent that exists in East Asia, you know it's subpar to what's in North America and Europe but how do we bridge that gap? The gap can be bridged through higher level competition and a fun product," added Beyer. "I believe, every kid's dream is to want to participate and basketball players work their hardest and to train to reach that level. So I think, just by continued dialogue and communication, it's just been able to get get a little bit further down the road."