Chinese opt for national competition
By DONAL SCULLY
FOLLOWING in the footsteps of the highly successful national soccer league, China's basketball authorities will run their first nationwide club championship for men's teams starting in February.
IMG, the company which marketed the Marlboro soccer league on the mainland, is also behind this venture, being responsible for marketing and television rights sales.
The eight-team league will begin in February 1995 and run until April.
Plans are for the second season to run from October 1995 to April 1996 with an expanded roster of 12 teams.
In February the dozen starting sides will be from Shenyang, Changchun, Tianjin, Beijing, Guangzhou, Jinan, Nanjing and Shanghai.
'As 1995 marks the 100th anniversary of the introduction of basketball into China, it is very appropriate that the National Men's Basketball League will be inaugurated next year,' said Yang Boyang, secretary general of the Chinese Basketball Association.
The first season of the Chinese national soccer league, which ended a few weeks ago, was a great success. The league attracted a big-name sponsor in Marlboro and matches were watched by big crowds and huge television audiences.
Yet in world terms China is a soccer minnow.
In basketball China has a much higher world profile, having finished eighth in this year's World Championship in Toronto. In Asia China reigns supreme having won the Asian Championship the past eight times and the Asian Games title the past three times.
With that in mind it's surprising a major sponsor and a television deal have yet to be finalised although IMG expect it to be a fortnight before both deals are announced.
Although television rights overseas have yet to be confirmed it's expected the league will air regularly on China's CCTV and regional channels.
'There will be one televised game per week on CCTV and then more games will be shown at the provincial and city levels,' IMG's Peter Boyle said.
'Ultimately in the long term we would like to bring in foreign players as well but for now teams will comprise all-Chinese playing staff.'