“The ABL Constitution states that up to two teams may play in one country, and if there is a third team joining, the first two teams have the right to approve (or deny) after the Board approves. The league always protects its current teams in its territories and markets,” said ASEAN Basketball League COO Jericho Ilagan when reached for a comment regarding rumors that the league had rejected the MVP group and the Gilas Philippine team’s intention to participate in the ABL.
A Facebook page posted about the alleged rejection but never really cited who the source was. It turns out, the quotes were lifted from a September 2016 article that never named a source insinuating about a “new ABL rule” which limits participating countries to only one club.
In citing a case, Ilagan confirmed a longstanding rumor: “The Hanoi Buffaloes (from Vietnam) actually wanted to join this year. The board approved, pending their requirements completion. Then it was up to the Saigon Heat to approve, which they also did,” and also added that “requirements and readiness bogged down the talks.”
The Buffaloes got their feet wet in a similar international tournament when they joined the Thailand Basketball Super League (TBSL), a league meant to be a direct competitor to the ABL that was formed when both Thailand clubs Mono Vampire and Hi-tech Bangkok City left two seasons ago. Hanoi is said to be looking to explore joining the ABL again in the 2018-2019 season.
“There was a time when an ABL team owner reached out to the MVP group but they had declined citing multiple teams supported in the PBA, PBA D-League, UFL, V-League, etc. Then when I came on board, because of the relationships we've established with the National Federations and Gilas coaches, we asked again if they'd be interested. They explored joining but it didn't really see the light of day due to reasons unknown to me, but we never said Gilas cannot join.” added Ilagan.