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Barako 3rd PBA franchise to fold up in last 6 years

March 20, 2011 7:30pm

Barako Bull is expected to become the third franchise of the Philippine Basketball Association to fold up since 2005.

The Photokina franchise has already informed the PBA Commissioner’s Office that the team will not compete anymore in the season-ending Third Conference.

PBA Commissioner Atty. Chito Salud confirmed this development to GMA News.

“They wrote the PBA and informed us that they will not return in the third conference," Salud said in a telephone interview.

Shell Philippines, which bought the franchise of the legendary Crispa Redmanizers in 1985, played in the league for 21 seasons before selling the ball club to Asian Coatings, Inc. of Welcoat/Rain or Shine.

There are two things to look into here. One, the PBA appears robust with 10 teams, which matched the most number of participants in the league. What makes it precarious is that half of the cast is owned by two companies — San Miguel Corporation and Smart/PLDT.
Jay P. Mercado, Basketball historian

Sta. Lucia, which acquired the franchise of Presto/Great Taste of the Gokongwei family in 1992, also folded up at the end of the league’s 35th season and sold the ball club to Meralco.

But Barako Bull bidding goodbye has been expected as early as three years ago when the team started unloading its marquee players one after another.

According to Salud, George Chua, owner of Barako Bull, cited the reasons for his team’s decision to leave the PBA — the company’s continuing legal battle against its principal, the loss of main basketball man Tony Chua,and the company’s decision to shift its focus to another field.

Barako Bull’s Energy Food and Drinks Inc, the exclusive distributor of Red Bull Energy Drink products in the Philippines, filed a legal case against TC Pharmaceuticals Industries Co., manufacturer of Red Bull in Thailand, and the legal battle is still ongoing.

Tony Chua, Barako Bull’s team manager, board governor and former PBA chairman, died two years ago at the height of the wrath of typhoon Ondoy.

Also included in the letter is the intention of Barako Bull to sell its PBA franchise to Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, sponsor of the league’s road games for several years now.

“Barako has identified a projected buyer in Phoenix Petroleum, and the PBA board will decide whether it will accept Phoenix as the league’s newest member or not," added Salud.
Members of the PBA board headed by Rene Pardo of B-Meg Derby Ace (fourth from right) will meet again this week to discuss the fate of Phoenix Petroleum, the company keen on taking over the Barako Bull franchise. GMANews.TV

The possible entry of Phoenix Petroleum as well as the decision of Barako Bull to bid goodbye will be topics of discussion in the next board meeting, which will be held either Tuesday or Friday this week.

“The board has decided to postpone its planned board meeting in the second Tuesday of this month, because the board chairman wants full attendance," added Salud.

Earlier, San Miguel Corporation notified the PBA Commissioner’s Office of the team’s name change for the third conference. The Beermen have decided to use Petron Blaze, one of its brands from its petroleum company.

Whether the move is San Miguel’s way of preempting the possible entry of Phoenix or just a way to promote one of its companies remains to be seen.

Teams come and go: a familiar trend

The economic pinch has always been the primary reason for teams folding up in the PBA’s 36-year history.

Basketball historians Jay P. Mercado and Atty. Percival Flores and well-known basketball analyst Andy Jao believe companies’ difficulties in continuing to finance their ball clubs would be one of the obvious reasons for folding up.

But they all agreed it won’t have a tremendous impact on Asia’s first play-for-pay league.

“The disbandment of Shell, Sta. Lucia and Barako Bull reminds me of the first 10 years of the PBA when teams came and went," said Mercado, business development manager of a popular fast-food chain and a regular writer of Pinoy Exchange sports forum.

According to Mercado, the first 11 years of the PBA were survival years.

Mercado, who passionately rooted for Crispa, and later on Ginebra, when Billy Ray Bates was acquired by the Gin Kings after he had led the Redmanizers to their second Grand Slam, recalled the teams that folded up in the first 10 years of the league.

“The first team to disband was Carrier after the 1976 season. Then, 7-Up disbanded and Filmanbank bought the franchise. Gilbey’s made it to a 9-team cast again in 1979. The Bankers disbanded, but Galleon Shippers got the franchise and then Tefilin joined to make it a 10-team field. At the end of 1981, Tefilin and Galleon disbanded, and in 1983, Winston joined the league in the same year that U-Tex disbanded."

Mercado noted that tthe Philippine economy collapsed in 1983 due to the assassination of Senator Ninoy Aquino, and then the unthinkable happened — Crispa and Toyota, which helped shape the popularity of the PBA and composed what many people still believe as the greatest rivalry in PBA history, also folded up.

“Beer Hausen bought the franchise of Toyota in 1984 and Shell bought Crispa’s franchise in 1985," added Mercado.

Atty. Flores agreed with Mercado’s insights.

“It has something to do with economics and that’s it," added Flores, legal counsel of a well-known land developer in the country and a regular writer of MYPBA, a rich source of basketball information.

But will the exit of a third PBA franchise in a six-year span create a negative impact on the PBA?

“There are two things to look into here. One, the PBA appears robust with 10 teams, which matched the most number of participants in the league. What makes it precarious is that half of the cast is owned by two companies — San Miguel Corporation and Smart Communications/PLDT," said Mercado.

Jao, who worked as a coaching staff of the U-Tex Wranglers, served as a board member of the PBA during the 1980s and joined the television panel for quite a time, has a more positive outlook.

“Shell, Sta. Lucia and Barako Bull stayed in the PBA for a long time. Maybe participation no longer fits their marketing purposes. I am sure there will be others which will take up the cudgels," said Jao, himself a former team manager of Red Bull. - KY, GMA News
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