McDonald's Open in jeopardy

Basketball
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The Independent Online
The fate of the McDonald's Open, scheduled for London next month and featuring the Houston Rockets, hangs in the balance this weekend while the NBA's millionaire players vote on whether to decertify their union, writes Duncan Hooper.

Stars such as Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal are at the head of the dispute, which aims to remove restrictions on free agency. In response, the NBA, the game's ruling body in the United States, and its owners have forced a lockout, preventing any preparation for the season that begins in the first week of November.

If the players vote against maintaining the collective bargaining agreement with the owners, the NBA Commissioner, David Stern, has warned that the lockout will continue - and the Open will be the first victim of their decision, due on Tuesday.

The uncertainty over the event, due to be staged at the London Arena, casts a cloud over the start of the new Budweiser League campaign tomorrow. Mike Smith, the League's chief executive, said: "We fervently hope the dispute will be settled, because there can be no open without Houston taking part."

The annual McDonald's Open is the most glamourous club event in the world, and was scheduled for London for the first time. Houston, the Australian champions, three top continental clubs and the English champions, Sheffield Sharks, are due to participate.

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