After fan attack on referee, Zhejiang women banned from playing in home city for one year

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At NiuBBall, we don’t often comment on the problems with the officiating inside of Chinese basketball. Actually on second thought, yeah we do.

However, this may be the first time where we have commented on fans seeking to physically assault an officiating crew after a game.

This article should focus on the big showdown between star foreign imports Maya Moore and Elizabeth Cambage as their respective Shanxi Flame and Zhejiang Golden Bull teams took on one another in Game 1 of the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association Finals Tuesday night.

However, the real action came after the final buzzer.

In what turned out to be two great individual performances by the US and Australian stars (Moore scored 53 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while Cambage scored 38) and an eventual 96-92 victory by Shanxi that put them one game up in the series, once again it was the officiating that was put in the spotlight in the newspapers and sports channels around the country.

Believing that the referees were showing favoritism towards Moore and her Flame teammates throughout the game (apparently Zhejiang was assessed with one too many foul calls), a group of fans thought it would be a good idea to storm the court after the game to let them know their feelings on the matter. But instead of simply voicing their displeasure, these fans let their fists do the talking as the three officials narrowly escaped to the dressing room. The situation was so intense that the angry mob had to be held back by security on hand at the arena.

The fiasco forced a spokesman for the Zhejiang team to make a public apology and Cambage took to Twitter after the game to share her unusual experience.

Though both fan suspicion of shady officiating and post-game on-court conformations are not new to Chinese basketball (most recently in 2011, a journalist went onto the court to accost a referee after a particularly controversial men’s playoff game between Beijing and Xinjiang), physical violence towards an official — at least on as big of a stage as the finals — is.

In response, the Chinese Basketball Association, which governs both the men’s and women’s league, handed down one of the harsher penalties in recent memory today: Zhejiang will be banned from playing home games in their home city of Yiwu for one year, including any additional games in their series against Shanxi.

The WCBA implements a 1-2-2 format for their best-of-five series. Games 2 and 3 will be played at Shanxi and if necessary, Games 4 and 5 will be played back in Zhejiang in their new city. Both the city and stadium must be approved by the league by February 4.

This recent incident only draws more scrutiny onto the competency of officiating at all levels in Chinese basketball, which as been under the microscope this season, particularly in the men’s league. Many have put forward suggestions, including this writer, who proposed several on another site. Yet basketball fans in China are still waiting for a meaningful and effective response from the league.

This is not to say that those “fans” were right, however. Attacking officials under any circumstances, no matter how deplorable the calls, is totally wrong and ruins the integrity of the game. More troubling though, was how they were able to get such easy access to the court with security supposedly tasked with guaranteeing the safety of players, coaches and referees. Hopefully in the following games in the best-of-five series more attention will be focused on the performances of the players on the court and not the shenanigans afterwards.

Game 2 will be played on Thursday night at Shanxi.

Jon Pastuszek also contributed to this report.

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