Has The Philippine Tackle Football League Disintegrated?

It looks like the six-year old Philippine Tackle Football League (ArenaBall Philippines) has imploded.

When BernardoDodi” Palma, president of the league, which he allegedly owns, cancelled a scheduled, league football game a few weeks ago in reaction to a late payment of $250, he had no idea that his abrupt, heavy-handed decision would come back to haunt him. The fallout from his decision has triggered a mass pullout of all five teams who have decided to build a new league on their own.

Citing an inability to obtain true accounting of the money and an alleged overbearing, dictatorial attitude by Palma, the teams in the league finally said they have had enough.

And their first step was to re-schedule the two cancelled games under their own banner and then arrange a championship game outside of the league auspices. The five team group (originally six but one team dropped out after the first game of 2015) has plans to set up its own league in 2016 under its own administration with representatives from each of the teams involved in the decision making.

Lawrence Bowlby, part owner of one of the teams in the league, the Vanguards:

“With all the sponsorship money they (the league) have brought in Palma is still charging players for operating costs. ABP.inc is a business, but the owner doesn’t pay the employees (stick crew, scoreboard operator, announcers, chalk). Instead, the owner passes on those costs to the players, who can barely afford it.”

In fact, money seems to be the heart of the problem. With the league pulling in sponsorship money, and the teams and/or players having to pay a sponsorship fee as well as for their own equipment including helmets, jerseys, pads and so one while also having to dole out money for game-day costs, tempers finally flared on the part of the teams. There is no accounting of expenses to the teams in the league.

Palma was football pioneer in the Philippines

There is no question of Palma’s initial value to the growth of football in this southeast Asian country. He introduced the game to the Philippines and was the driving force in gaining membership in the International Federation of American Football and also recognition from the Philippines Olympic committee. In the past six years he has founded Arena Ball Philippines, building it from nine-man football to the 11 man game played there today. He then helped form the American Tackle Football Association of the Philippines which was formed to be the governing body of American and flag football in the Philippines.

However, his days as the development leader of American football in the Philippines seem to have come to an end. Attempts to obtain a statement or response from Palma or his associates remain unanswered. An email stating that there  would be no comment on the issue until after the season is over was sent out. According to one of Palma’s lieutenants, “… what is being said about the league is inaccurate and grossly misrepresented.” Nevertheless, there has been no attempt from the league to refute any of the allegations from team representatives.

An attempt on the part of the teams to help Palma fulfill the league television contract and televise the championship game although not under the league banner was ultimately shot down by Palma. And the final straw it seems has been his refusal to provide any form of accounting of the funds received from at least one revenue source.

A search of the Philippines business registry does not list either Arenaball Philippines or the Philippines Tackle Football League as companies.

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.