Basketball Australia chief executive Anthony Moore says the Australian Boomers feared for their safety in the aftermath of a brawl in the Philippines on Monday night.
Moore faced the media on Tuesday following the brawl between players, officials and crowd members at the Philippine Arena outside of Manila, which saw the Boomers' FIBA World Cup qualifier end before three-quarter time due to the home side running out of eligible players.
Nine Philippines players and four Australians were ejected from the game but vision of the brawl has raised fresh questions about athlete safety as Boomers guards Chris Goulding and Nathan Sobey were assaulted by players and officials.
Moore said the Boomers were expected to arrive home in Australia early on Wednesday morning and Basketball Australia and Australian embassy officials were working to make sure the players remained safe.
“The primary concern on Monday night was player safety, I can’t emphasise that enough,” Moore said.
“We had our players, team management and coaches in fear of their physical safety, that’s a fairly compelling set of circumstances – [they were wondering] are we going to get out of here unscathed?”
Moore added Goulding was especially shaken up after being set upon by a number of Philippines players and officials including an assistant coach.
“It was alarming when you see a congregation of players at the end of the court and you say 'is one of our players really under there?'
“I flew back from Tokyo and got in yesterday so I watched the same thing you were watching on live television.
“It was absolutely alarming to see one of our players surrounded by 20 people with a significant amount of physical altercations occurring.”
BA haven’t ruled out separate legal action but want to let FIBA’s disciplinary process play out first.
The Boomers are expected to fly home on Tuesday night [AEST] and arrive in their home cities on Wednesday morning.
Moore wouldn’t be drawn on what penalties could be faced by players and officials from either nation as governing body FIBA has already started disciplinary proceedings against both teams.
Reaching players from both teams as they head back to their club sides could slow the FIBA proceedings, especially with so many people facing action.
Boomers player Andrew Sobey is punched in the face during the extraordinary brawl.
“They [FIBA] are usually quite swift but in this is brand new territory and we are relying on them to set that process out,” Moore said.
FIBA wouldn’t expand on their plans or process when contacted by Fairfax Media on Tuesday morning.
But it is understood possible suspensions could run between one game to more than a year depending on the severity and number of acts.
Moore refuted claims from Philippines coach Chot Reyes that Boomers forward Daniel Kickert made contact with his players during the warm ups but he also wouldn’t comment on the behaviour of the Philippines players, stating their conduct was for FIBA to assess.
Basketball Australia did apologise to the Philippines pre-game after Boomers staff ripped up court decals, which were causing the players to slip over during their pre-game training sessions.
Moore said the Boomers would take a black eye around the world as video spreads.
“It’s a setback for us. A dark day,” Moore said.
“At grassroots level the sport in terrific shape, we have record numbers playing but we are on the front page today because of a pretty ugly incident and we need to work hard to repair that image.”
Commentator and former Boomer Shane Heal said the Australians were "defending" themselves, although he noted that Kickert "has a serious case to answer".
Basketball Australia CEO Anthony Moore fronts the media on Tuesday.
"We heard their coach at one stage in a huddle as they were being beaten at 30 points, instructing them to hit them. I’m sure he didn’t mean it to the extent that we saw," Heal told Channel Seven.
"They have to have some of those officials banned, you would think, for life.
"I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life, and it really tarnished the sport."
One major concern is the future availability of Australia’s NBA and NBL players for international games and Moore said BA was already speaking with the Milwaukee Bucks, who had players Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker in Monday night’s game.
The Boomers next play in September when the second round of FIBA World Cup qualifying commences and they will face home and away games against three nations out of Kazakhstan, Qatar, Iran and Iraq.
Moore said security planning was already well underway for those games.
Australian and Philippines players brawl on court.
The Philippines, Japan and Indonesia will host the 2023 FIBA World Cup and Moore admitted the Philippines Basketball Association would face some stern questions from FIBA about how they could manage such a tournament.
“I think there is no doubt that’s a discussion our counterparts at the PBA and FIBA will have and is that an outcome from the tribunal or sanctions – I don’t know,” Moore said.
“But you can rest assured that discussion will happen.”
BA will also have pause about returning to the Philippines for games in future although they would face “significant ramifications” if they refused to play there.
“We would need assurances from the PBA, FIBA and we would speak with the Australian consulate on sentiment and how things feel on the ground,” Moore said.
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