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Talks between Yao Ming and Sport Authorities over Basketball League Stall

(CRI Online)    13:20, April 25, 2016

A file photo shows Yao Ming was playing basketball game.

Debate is underway in China about whether or not Chinese basketball great Yao Ming should be given control of how China's top basketball league is managed.

In 2009, Yao Ming bought the financially troubled Shanghai Sharks, which was his CBA team when he began his professional basketball career.

Leveraging his experience in the US, Yao pushed for an NBA-style management and operation of the team.

However, the back-room reforms have done little to improve the financial performance of the team, which reported a loss of over 20 million yuan during the first season after Yao became its owner.

Yao Ming is the only personal investor among all CBA stakeholders.

While turning a profit may not be as urgent for other teams with corporate owners, Yao admits generating money is necessary for the Sharks.

"To the best of my knowledge, no Chinese basket team is making a profit. If we start thinking of a team as a business, you realize that it can only benefit its employees when its profitable. And we can only provide better opportunities for our players and a better experience for our fans when the team makes money. We can't continue to run the team with continued losses."

The Chinese Basketball Association, the state-run sports authority that established and oversees the CBA league, only has a staff of 28 people.

In January, China's sports regulators approved new regulations which would allow outside management to run the league's daily business affairs.

Attempting to seize that opportunity to increase his stake in CBA affairs, Yao Ming partnered up with 17 other team owners in the CBA league to form a separate sports management company in February.

Yao then took helm of the company as its CEO and began negotiations with the China Basketball Association on the league's operational rights.

"We hoped to partner with the Chinese Basketball Association to deal with some of the structural challenges in the league. The association is very limited in its financial and human resources. But if our company is allowed to take over the league's operations, we can run it in a market-oriented way, making proper budgets and management decisions."

The first round of talks are said to have gone smoothly, with both sides agreeing to establish a joint venture to manage the league.

However, disagreements soon began stalling the negotiations.

The CBA wants a majority stake in the new venture, with the rest equally divided among the league's 20 teams.

However, Yao's firm wants to represent the 18 teams behind it collectively, while allowing it to hold the majority stake.

Editor Su Qun with the Basketball Pioneers newspaper in China says the reality behind dispute is the fear of losing tax-payer money.

"For the basketball association, or China's sports authorities, if they only have a minority stake, they will lose the right to manage the league, which is considered an asset of the state. If the league suffers any losses or damage, they'd be putting state assets at risk, without any way of maintaining control."

However, for Yao Ming, who has publicly expressed his frustration and disappointment over the latest development, the proposal from the basketball association does not bring any real change to the way the league will be managed.

Public opinion also appears divided in China.

While many basketball fans have criticized China's sports authorities for not keeping up with the realities of today's sports environment, others are critical of Yao Ming's plans to bring an NBA-style of league management to China.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Yuan Can,Bianji)

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