After last year's influx of highly-paid foreign players, league wants new system this year
The CBA has some of the NBA's players. Now it might get a similar salary cap too.
The question is when and how?
"If we can have a salary restriction in the new season, it will be good for the club's revenue. But we can't rush it and just simply copy the NBA model. We are two totally different leagues," Yuan Chao, general manager of the CBA champion Beijing Ducks, said on Monday.
Most team managers seem to share Yuan's thought that it will be difficult to implement a plan with tip-off just two months away.
A league official said a rough prototype is being discussed among club owners and a crew of experts, lawyers and analysts.
"We've been talking about how to make it happen recently and there is no timeline yet," Bai Xilin, director of the CBA's competition department, told China Daily on Tuesday. "We will keep the media posted when we work out something practical."
It's not the first time the league has considered capping the players' incomes. It issued a similar regulation in 2009, announcing different restrictions on foreign and domestic players' salaries.
Monthly salaries for foreign players were capped at $60,000. Chinese players were capped at $44,000, with the exception of national team members.
A lack of supervision and penalties doomed the rule.
With no equivalent to the NBA's luxury tax, the CBA had no way to enforce the cap.
Some big-spending clubs such as the Xinjiang Flying Tigers and Zhejiang Golden Bulls lured high-profile NBA players like Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith with multi-million dollar contracts in the offseason last year. It ended with losses, both financially and competitively.
Martin signed a $2.7 million one-year deal - the most lucrative in CBA history - with the Flying Tigers, but left midway through the season due to culture shock and left the three-time league runner-up mired in chaos.
The Golden Bulls didn't see any improvement either, and endured local players' complaints about Smith's privilege and the salary gap.
Some small-market clubs felt forced to allocate a large portion of their revenues to signing foreign players, and found themselves hamstrung financially.
The clubs want to call it off.
Bai said the salary cap was proposed by four owners during a meeting last week and was welcomed by others.
"We need some regulations to manage the league," Yuan said. "We can't let the rich clubs gather all the good players and make it a negative circle. That's not supposed to happen in a mature, healthy league."
"Clubs are the foundation of our league and 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 stressed time is a critical factor because most clubs have already started 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. Otherwise, we won't have a rule to follow."
The Ducks already retained their key duo of Stephon Marbury and Randolph Morris with salary 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 have established a dedicated crew to do all the research and hope to announce it at the proper time."
(China Daily 09/05/2012 page24)