Basketball’s governing body FIBA on Thursday handed down hefty fines and suspensions over an ugly on-court melee in Manila between the Philippine and Australian national teams during a World Cup qualifier.
Thirteen players and two coaches were suspended for unsportsmanlike behaviour and a total of $360,000 in fines issued, with most of the sanctions against the Philippine hosts of the July 2 match.
The crew officiating the game, which degenerated into wild punches and flying kicks before stunned spectators, were also suspended from competition.
Shocking footage showed chaotic scenes, including a white-shirted attacker who appeared to slam a chair onto an Australian player as he was set upon by up to a dozen people. “FIBA wishes to emphasise that it condemns any form of violence, both on and off the court,” it said in a statement. “Respect, sportsmanship and professionalism are expected from players, coaches, officials.”
What was already a bad-tempered game erupted in the third quarter when Philippine player Roger Pogoy knocked Australia’s Chris Goulding to the ground and Aussie Daniel Kickert retaliated by flattening Pogoy with a flying elbow.
‘Did not incite incident’
In Thursday’s ruling, Ten Gilas Pilipinas players were suspended, including a five-game stretch for Pogoy and two of his teammates over the violence hashtagged #basketbrawl as footage and condemnation went viral.
Switzerland-based FIBA hit the Philippines basketball federation SBP with a fine of 250,000 Swiss Francs ($250,000) and another 10,000 Francs against against head coach Vincent Reyes, who was accused of urging his players to fight. “In a way I think FIBA has been quite fair in the process,” SBP head Al Panlilio told journalists in Manila. “Honestly, it (the punishment) could have been much worse.”
The violence in Manila, which made international headlines, left the Australian team fearing for their safety, and they sought embassy help to fast-track their departure from the Philippines.
Only three players from the Boomers side were suspended, with the heaviest sanction of five games out handed to Kickert. Basketball Australia, the national federation, got a 100,000 Swiss Franc ($99,800) fine.
Basketball Australia Chief Executive Officer Anthony Moore welcomed “FIBA’s finding in its report that no discriminatory or racist language was used by Australian Boomers players, nor did it incite the incident as has been alleged.”
He told journalists in Melbourne the federation was unlikely to appeal the sanctions but would consider it at their meeting on Friday. In the wake of the brawl, both teams apologised to fans for bringing the game into “disrepute” with the fight, which resulted in 13 player ejections.
Though the game eventually resumed with just three men on the Philippines team, it was soon abandoned at 89-53 to Australia after two more home players fouled out.