Sports News

NBA tightens belt in U.S. but eyes China expansion

New Jersey Nets' Brook Lopez (R) gets tangled up with Miami Heat's Joel Anthony during the fourth quarter of their NBA pre-season basketball game in London October 12, 2008. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - The National Basketball Association is laying off nine percent of its work force over worries about the U.S. economy, but is looking to expand operations in China, Commissioner David Stern said.

“We made a decision some months ago that the economy was going to be a bit wobbly, so we began a belt-tightening that will result in a work force reduction of about nine percent domestically,” Stern told reporters on Sunday.

This translates into about 80 jobs, he later told Reuters.

“There is a season-ticket renewal rate decline, and new sales are also being hit,” he said. “My guess is when (the regular season) kicks off, we will be down modestly in season ticket sales.”

Stern, speaking ahead of an NBA pre-season game at London’s O2 arena, also announced that the league would work with sports and entertainment group AEG to build at least a dozen “NBA-style” arenas in China.

The joint venture would see between 12 and 25 arenas and entertainment districts built in major cities throughout China, Stern and AEG Chief Executive Timothy Leiweke told reporters.

“Together we will work with every level of government and the private sector to create NBA-style sports and entertainment facilities that will anchor communities and grow the sport of basketball throughout China,” Stern said in a statement.

AEG operates over 90 major facilities worldwide including London’s O2 arena, Berlin’s O2 World, and the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The announcement as part of the NBA’s four-game Europe Live 2008 tour, which features exhibition games in Paris, London, Berlin and Barcelona. (Editing by Justin Palmer)