This piece started off in the article reporting the fine for Shanghai after the crowd trouble against Dongguan but rather than flood a news piece with my opinions, I decided it was better to break it into a comment piece. This way, the actual Shanghai incident can be explained in a broader picture but also, the refereeing situation/crisis going on in Chinese basketball right now can be better explored.
Firstly, following the 100,000RMB fine dished out to Shanghai after the angry scenes at the end of the Dongguan game, it is a good idea to note that several of the refereeing decisions in that game were indeed awful. Yes, mistakes from officials should not be met with insults and objects from the stands but the context is important here. This is the second Shanghai home game this season (the other being the clash with the Guangsha Lions) where referees have made a series of questionable decisions that ultimately cost the Sharks the game. Amid that sort of atmosphere, it is understandable that fans are going to get angry with incompetent officials whose errors have ruined games the former have paid good money to attend.
Again, this sort of disorder is not the right response but the Dongguan game has been the latest in a number of controversial incidents in the CBA involving officials. Tracy McGrady has already copped a one-game ban for calling a crew of three referees ‘blind mice’ after his Qingdao Eagles team staged a walk-off in protest at several bad calls against the Bayi Rockets (NB: the referees were all subsequently banned for at least five games each by the CBA for their errors). Recently a Tianjin coach also had to be dragged away by his own players to stop him confronting officials after a hugely controversal loss to Qingdao. Its clear therefore that the scenes at the Yuanshen were not a one off.
Finally, as I’m writing this in the aftermath of Zhejiang’s WCBA team being banned from the league for a year after fans rushed from the stands to attack a referee, I think its important to stress the difference between the two situations. In the WCBA incident, you have an act of straight-up assault. Zhejiang are being rightly banned from playing home games for a year because they failed to monitor a situation and control their fans from getting courtside and attacking a referee (although exactly where the police were in all of this is another issue entirely). In the Shanghai/Dongguan incident, you have a situation that began with fans rightly expressing their verbal displeasure with referees but really only got out of hand when officials from the scorer table began to directly incite a crowd. That’s a big distinction and one that those officials need to be held accountable for.
Moreover, amid this growing trend of anger towards referees in the CBA, the main issue is that fans want accountability and half-decent officials. No-one is coming down from the stands but they certainly are allowed to be very pissed that this isn’t happening. There is now an unquestionable (and somewhat justifiable) climate of distrust and frustration with CBA referees and it is not going away until the league fixes the problem. Whether intentional in the case of Bayi forever getting their way or unintentional through straight-up incompetence, the league has long buried its head in the sand on this issue. The problem now is that this season, the screw-jobs are happening on a weekly basis and teams are now factoring it into their tactics.
Shanghai will obviously eat the fine but in the longterm, the problem is with the CBA and its officials. The powers that be in Chinese basketball have a clear and obvious problem on their hands and if they don’t do something about it soon, phoning a team owner and telling them to write out a cheque because that team’s fans angrily called out the referee is going to be a weekly occurence.