(Reuters) – Teams in China’s professional basketball league are calling for an NBA-style basketball salary cap after a sharp rise in overseas players signing big-money contracts.
“We’ve been talking about how to make it happen,” Bai Xilin, director of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) competition department, told the China Daily newspaper. “There is no timeline yet.” However, a salary cap cannot come quickly enough for some. “If we can have a salary restriction in the new season, it will be good for the club’s revenue,” Yuan Chao, general manager of the CBA champion Beijing Ducks, said. “But we can’t just simply copy the NBA model. We are two totally different leagues.”
Introducing the cap could prove difficult, however, with the start of the season just two months away. In 2009, monthly pay for foreign players was capped at $60,000 and $44,000 for Chinese players, with the exception of national team members. However, a lack of supervision over implementing the rules and subsequent penalties for those dodging the guidelines doomed the CBA’s first attempt at a cap. With no equivalent to the NBA’s luxury tax, the CBA had no way to enforce it.
The Xinjiang Flying Tigers and Zhejiang Golden Bulls bankrolled multi-million dollar deals for NBA players such as Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith in last year’s off-season.
It ended in losses for both clubs, financially and on the court. Martin signed a $2.7 million one-year deal – the most lucrative ever in the CBA – with the Tigers, but left midway through the season, unable to adjust to the culture.
His abrupt exit left the club in chaos, while the Golden Bulls barely improved, and team chemistry suffered from local players complaining about Smith’s salary and perks.
The salary cap was proposed by four owners during a meeting last week and welcomed by others, according to Bai.
“We need some regulations to manage the league,” said Yuan, whose Ducks won the CBA title last season, helped by former New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury. “We can’t let the rich clubs gather all the good players and make it a negative circle,” added Yuan. “That’s not supposed to happen in a mature, healthy league.” Smaller clubs have felt forced to dig deep to sign foreign players in order to compete in the CBA and say enough is enough.
“Clubs are the foundation of our league. We have to make sure each of them develops in a healthy fiscal condition,” Bai said. “Blind investments and a sharp increase in operating costs will harm the clubs and our league in the end. It’s a consensus among owners to slow it down.” Yuan admitted that the time frame for implementing the proposed cap was critical with most clubs already involved in contract negotiations. “We haven’t been informed about when and how to make it happen,” Yuan said. “If the CBA wants to implement it in the new season, they have to be quick.”
The Ducks have already retained the services of Marbury and Randolph Morris with pay increases over the summer, Yuan said.
“We will hear as many suggestions as possible and make sure every detail is acceptable to all 17 clubs,” Bai said. “We hope to announce it at the proper time.”
(Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Patrick Johnston)