Gilas Pilipinas bound by FIBA rules to join Olympic Qualifier
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines may have two choices: compete in the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, or face sanctions from basketball's world governing body.
The Philippines, which recently placed second at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, is mandated to send a national team and participate in the tournament, happening from July 5-6 in 3 different cities around the world.
According to FIBA Internal Regulations Book 2, which details rules on Competitions, the Philippines cannot simply pull out from a competition they have qualified for – in this case the Olympic Qualifier – lest the relevant federation, which is the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), wants to receive sanctions from the world basketball body.
"All national federations whose teams are taking part in main official competitions of FIBA must provide to FIBA or to the appropriate FIBA body a declaration signed by the President and/or the Secretary General of the national member federation confirming that by taking part in any official competition qualifying for another official competition, the national member federation commits to register its national team(s) and to ensure their participation in the competition to which they have qualified," the FIBA rule book states.
"A failure to abide by the obligations to register and/or participate in the competition for which a national team has qualified may result in sanctions being imposed on the relevant national federation as provided by article 2-103."
SBP has faced scrutiny after outgoing federation president and basketball patron Manny V. Pangilinan expressed his intention not to send national men's basketball team Gilas Pilipinas to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will have 18 national teams from FIBA’s primary events divided into 3 competitions of 6.
"My view is that, I’m not saying we will get chosen for the wild card, but frankly my view is that we should opt out of it," Pangilinan was quoted as saying. "And plan further ahead towards 2017 when the pre-qualification games are started to get played for the 2019 World Cup. We should prepare better for that."
Four days later, Pangilinan announced he is stepping down as SBP president after two 4-year terms with a new leadership set to be elected by January.
The SBP is reportedly reluctant to send a team to the tournament due to the strong possibility that pro players – which make up the entirety of the Gilas 3.0 team – may not be available for Gilas coach Tab Baldwin.
The PBA's last conference will be in full swing at the time of the competition.
Basing on FIBA's rulebook, it would seem the moment the Philippines signed on to participate in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, they were bound to keep on playing if they remain eligible.
Gilas was relegated to the Olympic Qualifier with its silver medal finish in the FIBA Asia tilt. Iran and Japan, which finished in the final four as well, will also play in the tournament, while gold medalist China gained the outright berth for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Furthermore, the rulebook details regulations on the event a team decides to pull out from a FIBA event for which they qualified.
"If, after having sent its final entry, a team should cancel its participation or should fail to appear at the opening of the competition, the FIBA Central Board or the appropriate body of FIBA shall have the right to sanction that party which is in breach of its obligations to appear. These penalties may be of a disciplinary or financial nature," the rulebook stated.
A report from the Manila Bulletin also confirms this with FIBA Communications Coordinator and Spokesperson Simon Wilkinson saying objectives for participation in continental championships are clarified from the onset, which means SBP is aware of what they signed up for.
"FIBA therefore expects all teams which have qualified either directly to the Olympic 2016 Rio Olympic Games or to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments and FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament to attend these official competitions of FIBA next year," Wilkinson was quoted as saying.
While Gilas made a decent run to the FIBA Asia final this year, the team encountered problems during its formation in July with PBA players on Baldwin's wishlist backing out due to injuries, fatigue, or personal reasons.
The players included June Mar Fajardo, LA Tenorio, and Paul Lee. Though Marc Pingris ended up joining Gilas, he also went back and forth on his decision.
Gilas is set to face stiff competition in the Qualifying Tournament, which will include countries outside of Asia such as France, Greece, New Zealand and Senegal, among others.
After FIBA Asia, the Philippines improved from its 31st rank to 28th place in the FIBA World Rankings.
See screenshots from the FIBA rulebook below: