Chinese basketball fans can expect less on-court violence this season and fairer refereeing as China's top-flight league, which tips off next week, has pledged to impose harsher punishments on referees and clubs for any such infringements.
"This season we will put a knife to the neck of any referee who is involved in match-fixing or bribery," said Liu Xiaonong, a chief official with the Chinese Basketball Administrative Center (CBAC). "If a league is frequently linked to rumors of match-fixing, it means it has a big problem."
Scandals related to black-whistle refereeing and other examples of professional misconduct have cast a dark shadow on the sport here in recent years and hampered its development, something the CBAC stressed on Tuesday it is keen to rectify.
"We know that some referees must have taken bribes last season. I heard some of them even called the host team to announce their arrival. It is clear what they intended to do," said Liu. "But we could not find any supporting evidence, so this season we have found another way to eradicate the problem."
The Center has decided to set up a supervision and evaluation team comprised of experienced referees, journalists and other experts.
"The team's job is to make an evaluation of every game. If it casts doubt on the score or the referee's performance we will classify how serious the problem is and mete out punishments without the need for hard evidence."
The CBAC will also tighten its control of players and fans.
"We have amended our regulations and we will definitely increase the punishment for on-court violence," said director Li Yuanwei.
"We have worked for more than 10 years to make the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) a better league and have our world-famous stars like Yi (Jianlian) and Yao, so we cannot let its image be destroyed."
Spectator violence has grown rapidly since the league tipped off last October. Games were even criticized as being "totally out of control" by state media after three incidents of fans throwing bottles onto the court.
The CBA slapped the clubs involved with fines of 10,000 yuan ($1,351) but these sums will now rise as they have proven largely ineffective.
The league may also choose to follow the zero-tolerance policy implemented by the National Basketball Association after an infamous on-court brawl in 2004 that saw Indiana Pacers players jump into the stands and strike fans of the Detroit Pistons.
According to these stricter regulations, which were subsequently softened, any player who argues a call or even throws up his hands in frustration merits a technical foul and a fine. The result was better-behaved players and fewer cases of fan violence.
Bigger and better
The CBA kicks off this year's season with a match between Guangdong Tigers and Jiangsu Dragons on Nov 15 while a league record 18 teams are now divided into Southern and Northern conferences.
This means fans can look forward to 450 games played during the regular season, almost double that of last season, with whole season (regular and playoffs) to run for six instead of four months.
To make the league more competitive and entertaining, the CBAC is also now allowing a team's two foreign players to share the court for the entire game as opposed to just one quarter.
The bottom four clubs from the previous season, and the two promoted clubs, are also free to sign one additional overseas' player from Asia to boost their squads.
"China's women's and men's national basketball teams were so impressive during the Beijing Games. Their achievements should help inspire the sport's development at a grassroots level," said Li. The women's team finished 4th and the men's team 8th at the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.
"The CBA should take this golden opportunity to issue reforms and expand our presence nationwide."
Source: China Daily