Against all odds, ABL vows to return in 2021

Published July 16, 2020, 8:00 AM

by Jonas Terrado

San Miguel Alab Pilipinas (ABL Images)

The ASEAN Basketball League on Wednesday expressed its commitment to stage the 2021 season amid talks that the decade-old regional league is on the brink of folding.

“We will now turn our efforts into planning for the next ASEAN Basketball League season in 2021 and hope to make announcements on the 11th ABL Season after completing consultations among the teams,” the ABL said after confirming the cancellation of the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are determined to find a way forward and return to the courts bigger and better alongside all our teams, commercial partners and fans. In the meantime, we implore everyone to stay safe, healthy and strong as we move forward together,” the league added.

The ABL made this statement a week after rumors swirled that the economic effects of the pandemic have forced the league to close shop.

Chief Operating Officer Jericho Ilagan and the rest of the ABL staff were not renewed after the COVID-19 crisis forced an indefinite suspension of the season.

Rumors of the ABL’s closure were quickly denied by officials of Vietnam’s Saigon Heat and charter members Singapore Slingers and Kuala Lumpur Dragons.

The COVID-19 situation forced a disappointing end to what would have been a grand celebration of its 10th anniversary.

Since 2009, the league has expanded outside of Southeast Asia, attracting teams from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan while San Miguel Alab Pilipinas became the longest-tenured Philippine club after shortlived stints of the Philippine Patriots, San Miguel Beermen and Pilipinas MX3 Kings.

But the ABL encountered COVID-19 problems such as the staging of closed-door games, several postponements and travel restrictions imposed by member countries.

“This year would have been a milestone year for the ABL, as we have tipped off into our 10th year. This decision is not an easy one and has not been made lightly,” the ABL said.