The IBL Just Kicked Out One Of Its Most Popular Teams

Surabaya's CLS Knights have been a non-profit team for over 70 years, but a rule change will see them leave the Indonesian Basketball League because they won't change their status.

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Sep 5 2017, 11:14am

All photos by Rocky Padilla

The 2017-18 season of Indonesia Basketball League (IBL) will start in December without the league's 2016 champion and most popular team, Surabaya's CLS Knights, due to a new regulation that requires all participating teams to be a Perseroan Terbatas (PT) or LLC. The league claimed this is a move toward professionalism, but there are many other areas of IBL that could be improved which don't require letting go of one of the best teams in the league.

Thousands of IBL fans found out about the disappointing news in July from CLS Knights' leaked resignation letter from IBL that has been re-posted multiple times on Instagram.

Although the IBL management required all teams to be registered as a PT before the start of the 2016-17 season, it gave a pass to CLS Knights, which has existed as a non-profit foundation for decades. This time, though, there is no exception.

"Professionalism in terms of league and club management is an important step to improve Indonesia Basketball League. At the same time, the regulation functions as protection for all parties, from players, coaches, and officials," said IBL director Hasan Gozali to local media. "Because in order for leagues and clubs to be considered professional, the people involved have to pay attention to legal matters."

The CLS Knights were established 70 years ago as a not-for-profit foundation. They said it's difficult to change their legal status, because they have over 100 contributing members. They don't want to have 100 CEOs but they also don't want one boss calling the shots for all their members.

"It's really nobody's fault. I actually understand why the IBL came up with the requirement. Unfortunately, we cannot fulfill it. It's probably like dating, we're no longer compatible so now we have to break up," CLS Knights managing partner Christopher Tanuwidjaja told me.

There are rumors that the CLS Knights will move to the ASEAN Basketball League, but Christopher said it's nothing more than just talk. "There is an option to join ABL, but that is only if we still have players. We don't know when ABL will begin either," he clarified in a YouTube interview.

Before making this decision which surprised many, CLS Knights fulfilled their obligations and submitted all documents required by the IBL, like tax reports, but that wasn't enough to keep them a part of the league.

Many fans have supported the IBL's move to a more professional structure, because they think it would ensure local teams turn a profit in the future. Management at the IBL has said that the league will earn a profit this upcoming season thanks to their newly updated legal status.

But how plausible is this? The IBL has only been the top league for the past two years. If the concern is to make the competition entirely professional, there are other areas that have to be addressed. The player's salary is one.

The IBL is also working on a salary cap structure Ideally, the salary cap will help level talents among all teams, because teams would have the same spending limits. But will this actually work in Indonesia? There are teams who spent more on foreign players through under-the-table deals. This happened last season. Every team had a budget of $5000 USD for two foreign players, while I'm sure they actually cost more than that to recruit.

But if salary cap is implemented, minimum wage for all players should be priority. In the 2017-18 season of NBA, the lowest-paid player—with one year of experience—gets $31,969 USD a year. Meanwhile in IBL, there isn't a standard for salaries. There are players who only earn Rp3,000,000 ($225 USD) a month, according to club sources.

I believe salary cap should be a priority because it will take years before people adapt to the new regulations. I think the instant solution is to let teams sitting on the 6-10 position recruit one foreign player from the Philippines. We all know that the skills of a Filipino player could jack up a whole team. With addition of one Filipino player in lower ranking teams, it would make things more competitive and interesting to watch—even without the CSL Knights to root for.

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