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Huge loss puts China league in jeopardy

THE Chinese Basketball Association will be trimmed next season after a 115 million yuan (US$16.82 million) loss from 2008-9 put the league "in danger", local media reported yesterday.

The CBA, which is aiming to build the strongest league in Asia, extended it from 200 games to 450 over five months last season, which cost the 18 clubs a total of 265 million yuan but only brought in 150 million yuan.

"Because of the expanded investment, the operation of the league and clubs are both in danger," CBA chief Liu Xiaonong told the Beijing Youth Daily.

"Some of the clubs even have had their cash flow broken."

Last season's bottom two clubs Yunnan Honghe and Shanghai Sharks are in the worst-hit. The owner of Yunnan, unable to pay the players, is planning to sell the team.

The expansion was poorly timed because of the onset of the global financial downturn, Liu said.

CBA director Xin Lancheng said the league needed to control costs by reducing referee expenditure and setting salary caps for players.

He said the top foreign players were overpaid and difficult to manage and therefore the relevant rules would be revised to give Chinese players more time on court.

Foreign players

New rules allowed teams to field two foreign players last season, a move the CBA hoped would attract interest in the league and expose players to tougher competition.

There was a backlash, however, with former National Basketball Association players like Bonzi Wells and Donnell Harvey dominating the scoring. The only Chinese player in the top 20 scorers was the 18th ranked Wang Zhizhi, the former Dallas Mavericks forward.

The most intense schedule in the CBA's 14-year history also caused injury problems, said Xin. Some 75 players missed games due to injuries and 11 of them were absent for over 20 games.

Basketball is the country's most popular spectator sport but mainly through televised broadcasts of NBA games, for which China is second largest market outside North America. The NBA has a long-term deal to manage the Beijing basketball arena built for last year's Olympics and last year announced plans to construct 12 to 25 more in major cities around China.


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