Friday, January 3, 2014

KLFA must be made to pay

Level Field - 27th Dec, 2013


’TIS the season to be jolly, but not as far as Kuala Lumpur FA is concerned. It is staring at a bleak 2014.

However, the officialdom at KLFA is oblivious of what it has done to the association and is still sitting pretty in office without a tinge of sadness or remorse.

Kuala Lumpur has a shorter but proud history in the annals of Malaysian football. Having only made its debut in the M-League in 1979 after the association was formed in 1974, it worked its way up from minnows to the kingpin of Malaysian football. But now, for the new season, it has plumbed new depths - club-level football, the third tier of the FAM League.

More humiliatingly, the association has been rocked by match-fixing allegations over the last two years. Last week saw its foreign coach for the season, its team manager, an official and five players banned for life from football and fined RM20,000 for match-fixing by the FA of Malaysia.

Another seven players are expected to be hauled up today and could well face similar action.

While it is commendable that the FA of Malaysia is serious about match-fixing, what sanctions has it meted out to KLFA? KL’s President Cup team was up to no good last season, but KLFA chose to turn a blind eye. And it put the KL team at further risk of match-fixing speculation when it enlisted a new sponsor for the 2013 season - Rising Sun Travel & Tours, which did not fully fulfil its sponsorship obligations.

What’s puzzling is that KLFA let the sponsor have a say in the hiring of the coach and players and even in managing the team when it is clearly stated by the FA of Malaysia that the team must be managed by the association.

When asked if late payment of salaries was the reason the players turned to bookies, KLFA secretary general Nokman Mustapha insisted that it was not. He claimed that KLFA paid its portion of the salaries, but the sponsor defaulted.

But the players sign contracts with the association, which makes it fully responsible for their salaries, not the sponsor.

According to Nokman, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had asked to observe the KL team early this season and KLFA had given its blessing to the investigation. So, KLFA knew something was amiss, but did nothing about it, including curtailing the powers of the sponsor.

It is fine to punish the guilty players, but shouldn’t KLFA president Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz and his council also be blamed for the fiasco? The honourable thing to do would be to resign en bloc. Or the FA of Malaysia should punish them for their part in bringing the game to disrepute.

All the hard work former KLFA president and mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Tan Sri Elyas Omar, put in to raise the standard of city football has been undone. The efforts of founder members like Datuk K. Rasalingam (the then secretary) and Goh Ah Chai (the then treasurer) have all gone to waste.

To call KLFA poor would be a misstatement. With the assistance of KL City Hall, it has a home to call its own - the Bandar Tun Razak Stadium. KLFA manages the stadium and only pays booking fees to City Hall. Maintenance of the stadium is shouldered by City Hall. KLFA also get financial aid from City Hall.

However, the KLFA-City Hall relationship hit a snag. As a result, the field in the stadium was neglected and the FA of Malaysia would not allow KLFA’s M-League matches to be held there last season. The matches had to be played in Malacca.

Soon, KLFA will be without a home because City Hall intends to close the stadium for two years for renovations. The association is said to be negotiating with the latter for an alternative office space.

Lest we forget, Elyas had acquired eight hectares in Taman Melawati for KLFA. The land was recently given to a company to develop in exchange for building the KLFA Academy Football Centre on 3.28 hectares of it. But work on the academy was unsatisfactory and after much deliberation and restoration, KLFA decided that it would privatise the academy. The Ministry of Sports assisted by turfing the pitch.

A private entity currently manages the academy, which boasts a gymnasium, hostel and cafeteria, among other facilities. In return, KLFA got 10 per cent of the booking fees a month and now gets 30 per cent.

The sad fact is that KLFA’s teams do not get a chance to train at the academy. It is also learnt that the developer had given KLFA a condominium but whether there are any returns from the property is unclear.

Then, there is revenue from billboards also acquired during Elyas’ tenure, and surely KLFA can manage better with all this income.

Today, a personal assistant of Astaman, who was initially brought in as liaison officer and was not supposed to cost KLFA any money, is the assistant secretary with a paid salary and calls all the shots in KLFA. She has also found a place on FAM’s media committee.

Certainly, a great deal of things are not right with KLFA and need to be addressed immediately.

The people who have brought KLFA to its knees need to pay for their sins. KLFA is not going to look good by punishing teenagers when the elders themselves are guilty of wrongdoing.

TONY MARIADASS is sports editor of
The Malay Mail. He can be reached at
Twitter handle: @tmariadass

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