By TITO S. TALAO
SYDNEY – Incoming chairman Ramon Segismundo is hanging a big “Welcome” sign at the door of the Philippine Basketball Association for interested parties to take a closer look, not only in becoming major corporate backers but at actually joining the 39-year league as new members.
League expansion ranks high in the 8-point plan outlined by Segismundo to the PBA Board of Governors Monday at the start of their three-day planning session at The Westin-Sydney Hotel and Resort here and is expected to get a strong push during his term.
Segismundo, senior vice president for Human Resources and Corporate Services at Manila Electric Company and board representative of the Meralco Bolts, took over the helm from Barangay Ginebra’s Robert Non, basketball operations chief at San Miguel Corporation.
He acknowledged that Non’s shoes will be huge ones to fill, in light of the record-smashing 38th season, but vowed to keep the PBA curve on the upswing.
“A great banner year under chairman Robert and I salute him for a job well done,” said Segismundo. “We’re placing a lot of high hopes on next season and I believe we’ll continue to break all-time records in terms of gate attendance, fan satisfaction and engagement, as well as the partnership and synergy that we’re driving with Gilas, SBP, our TV coverors and media partners. It’s all about partnership and collaboration.
Looking forward, we hope to outdo ourselves.” While he had expressed before his desire to transform the country into a “unifi ed basketball nation” after Gilas Pilipinas’ silver medal finish in the FIBA Asia Championship and ensuing return to the world stage, Segismundo stressed that, along with PBA commissioner Chito Salud, league expansion will be “one of the priorities” of his chairmanship.
“We don’t expect it to happen overnight; I know it’s a slow burn. But within the next 12 months, we hope to develop steps to make sure it happens,” he said, adding that talks will be initiated with “potential team owners” to assure them that being in the PBA is a “great investment, has great value to any business and is something really that they should seriously consider.”
Segismundo hinted at the possibility of the PBA doing a “road show” for prospective team owners to cover wider ground in their search for new members.
Salud, for his part, has adopted a wait-and-see stance. “We’ve had very many inquiries,” he said. “But serious intentions, that’s what we’re waiting for.”
Outside raising the number of ballclubs during his watch, Segismundo advanced an overall theme designed to “rally the Filipinos behind the PBA in 2014, ”a “breakout year” for Philippine basketball.
Segismundo said PBA-backed Gilas Pilipinas intends to “make it to the Top 16” in the FIBA World Cup in Spain next year and to qualify to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Everything else falls into place after that, Segismundo said.
With “convergence and alignment” of programs with the Commissioner’s Offi ce, the Bolts governor said he wants to continue to drive the PBA’s successful performance in the past season, support quality investment on professional training for PBA staff and the referees, stabilize TV partnership and other coverors for more consistent and larger audience viewership, and strengthen the “Alagang PBA” project to deepen the culture of sports in the community.
“We must project the PBA as a responsible partner in the development of our country,” Segismundo said.
The increase of PBA teams “in the medium term” is fifth in the agenda while sixth is a more detailed discussion of the overall theme Segismundo laid down for this year – rallying the nation behind Gilas and the PBA.
“Philippine basketball is returning to the world stage and this goes beyond the game,” he said. “It’s all about our country, the people, and teaching the values of unity, discipline and the can-do spirit that, yes, the Filipinos can.”
Likewise, Segismundo is pushing for the development of international agreements between the PBA and leading professional basketball leagues and associations in the areas of training, technology transfer, technical management and marketing.
“We really want to raise our game,” he said. In that aspect, the league governors visited the New South Wales Institute of Sports Tuesday morning to confer with its basketball coaching staff headed by Damian Cotter, mentor of Australia’s U/19 men’s team.
Lastly, Segismundo wants the PBA media to have “a real, thriving and dynamic personality of its own” to make sure the excitement of the games “are brought to the millions of sports fans all over the country.”
Salud kept his role in the postboard meeting media briefing to a minimum.
“We had a very fruitful planning session, and the board agrees that we should continue developing the product – the game, and satisfying our customers – our fans” with support from our TV coveror and a strong marketing thrust,” Salud said.
Attributing the success of the banner 38th season to reverting to the three-conference format, intense action via exciting tournament formats, and balance in trades, Salud reported an increase in live attendance percentage from 8 percent in 2010-11 to 12 percent in 2011-12, and another 10 percent last year.
Gate receipts also shot up, he bared, from a 23 percent raise two years ago to an 89 percent surge in the just-concluded season.
“So where do we go from here?” Salud said. “Forward, no less.”