Team China’s pandemic-enforced withdrawal prompts legal wrangle
The Chinese Basketball Association is appealing a fine imposed by the sport’s global governing body, FIBA, over the national team’s coronavirus-enforced no-show for Asia Cup qualifiers in November.
The CBA confirmed the move on Monday at a regular media briefing, but gave no further details regarding the process, which was launched earlier this month following consultations with a legal team, according to the association’s foreign affairs department.
“After analyzing the situation meticulously, we have filed an official appeal against the penalty and have hired an attorney to handle the ensuing legal procedures,” said Xu Lan, director of the CBA’s national team management and foreign affairs department.
In January, FIBA’s disciplinary panel sanctioned a number of its member associations, including China, for non-participation in the second leg of its 2021 Asia Cup qualifiers, scheduled for November in Qatar.
The CBA’s decision to skip November’s qualifying tournament was made with the health of the players and team staff as a top priority at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic still posed a serious risk, said Xu.
Also citing health and safety concerns, Canada’s national basketball association has lodged an appeal against a FIBA fine for the same amount for pulling out of two AmeriCup 2022 qualifying games, scheduled for the Dominican Republic in November.
With the third leg of the Asia Cup qualifiers originally slated for Feb 17-23, the CBA had named a 14-player squad following the conclusion of the domestic league’s second stage in early February. It had also drawn up a meticulous travel plan to be ready to make the trip to Qatar for the competition.
However, on Feb 11, FIBA abruptly postponed those games over COVID-19 concerns.
Having spent a week training through the Spring Festival break at a closed-door camp in Shanghai, the players were released to return home on Feb 12, the first day of China’s Lunar New Year, affording them time to recuperate for the third phase of the CBA league, which tips off on March 1.
“Our players were ready to show their commitment to their national duty and we had prepared well logistically for making the trip to Qatar on a charter flight during the pandemic,” said Xu.
“However, the sudden cancelation caught us off guard.”
The CBA is now in discussions with FIBA regarding possible future dates for the Asia Cup qualifiers, according to Xu.
“Yet, it’s out of our hands as it involves over 10 member associations, which means FIBA has to take time to comprehensively coordinate relevant parties before making any decisions,” she added.
Meanwhile, the CBA also confirmed on Monday that some of the players from the now-defunct military team, the Bayi Rockets, have re-registered with the league as free agents.
The eight-time CBA champion Rockets disbanded in October as part of the People’s Liberation Army’s decision to reform its military sports training system after 25 years of service in the top-tier league.
The team’s withdrawal had raised concerns over the future of players on that team, who faced difficulties in transferring to other clubs because they were enlisted in the army.
By Saturday, however, 11 former Rockets players had registered as free agents and are now eligible to sign with other teams ahead of the league’s third phase, according to the CBA.
Former national team training camp member Zou Yuchen and youth national squad center Fu Hao are expected to attract the most interest from clubs.
“It’s important that we made sure these players could stay in the top league and have games to play in the prime of their careers,” said Zhang Chi, a CBA spokesman and head of the league’s player development department.