Collapse of Malaysian Football League imminent?
Malaysian football has gone professional for 25 years after an initial five years of Semi-Professionalism.
But it is still struggling to be managed well and constantly encountering problems, while is stifling the growth of Malaysian football standards and currently have reached a very low ranking in the world football.
Is there hope for Malaysian football and what needs to be addressed?
By Tony Mariadass
Malaysian football needs an urgent revamp and stern actions need to be taken to safe the game.
This is the opinion of two former administrators of the game of two different eras of Malaysian football.
Bluntly put, they feel that it requires cruel actions to be kind to Malaysian football.
Former secretary-general of FA of Malaysia, Datuk Dell Akbar, said the problem has to be looked into in totality and one or two reasons alone cannot be pin pointed for the state of the Malaysian League.
“Looking at the woes of Malaysian football many will be quick to point the ‘dole mentality’ of State FAs and clubs who depend on subsidy to manage their teams,” said the secretary-general from 2001 to 2005.
“But how much is the subsidy in terms of the whole expenditure of managing their respective teams,” asked the former international.
“I would say the subsidy would cover 10 to 20 percent of their expenditure depending on how much they spend on their team and their team’s status in the League. Teams would spend about RM10 million to RM50 million.
“Thus, it would be unfair to blame them to say they depend solely on subsidies to manage their team and that’s why they run into problems like late or non-payment of wages to name one.”
Dell said most teams are running at a loss every season.
Dell said there are other factors like sponsorships had to come by these days, poor management, over ambitious in securing local and foreign players and many other factors which sees teams get into trouble.
“Only a handful of teams can manage well.”
Dell agreed that many revamps have been done over years and yet the right formula for Malaysian football has not been derived.
“But after so many years and so many trials, I strongly feel that another brain storming session is in order. This time it has to be a do or die mission and drastic measures need to be taken with all stakeholders coming with an open mind and decide on the best solution.”
Dell said among the areas that need to be addressed include:
· To allow only teams who have the financial capabilities to manage a team and with all infra structures in place.
· To look into ways to improve the gate collections
· To get corporate companies to adopt teams on a long term basis
· To decide on a manageable number of foreign players or even consider if we need them at this stage
· Review salaries for players
Dell added that if need be to reduce the number of teams in the Super League to maybe 8 and send the rest to play in the lower division and only admit them when they ready and sound financially and meet all the criteria.
“I know there are licencing rules in place for teams to qualify to play in the League, but we still have problems. Probably it needs more tightening and stringent enforcement of the criteria.”
While the vision of MFL is to make football a pride of the nation once again, and to transform Malaysian football is centred around 4 key pillars; competitive matches in all competitions, positive commercial growth, strong partnerships with stakeholders and increasing professionalism as well as integrity in team and league management, somehow the end results is left much to be desired.
In fact, ever since the Semi-Pro days, 30 years ago, all these visions and requirements have been drained to State FAs and clubs’ year in and year out through seminars, but nothing seems to have changed with most.
Another administrator from amateur era of Malaysian football, Datuk S. Anthonysamy, said that teams were better managed in the amateur days than the present professional era.
“We were more prudent in the yesteryear because funds were difficult to come by. Yes, our expenditure in terms of salaries was way much less, but we still had to managed the team and paid out allowances, bonuses, team’s travelling expenditure, victory overseas trips and many others,” said the 84-year-old Anthonysamy who was FA of Selangor secretary from 1974 to 1993 and was involved in various capacities with FA of Selangor and FA of Malaysia for 30 years.
“I strongly feel drastic measures need to be taken to put Malaysian football back in track.
“Teams need to manage within their means and work hard to get funds to manage their teams. If they cannot get the finances, they should not get involved in the professional league. They should confine themselves to the semi-pro or amateur league.
“State FAs also have to come to terms that it is not their right to play in the professional league, but earn their right instead.”
Anthonysamy said that although it is a professional era, the gate collections which was a main source of income, has dwindled over the years.
“State FAs and clubs need to address this situation. The foreign players were supposed to bring in the crowd but more often than not many problems have risen with the presence of the foreign players and many are sub-standard players.”
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary, Datuk Windsor Paul John however felt that the FA of Malaysia is trying their best, but the State FAs and clubs have to do their bit to ensure that everything is in order.
“The FA of Malaysia can come out with the best plans and formula, but the execution part is most important for success and this is where the stakeholders have to stand up and be counted,” said Windsor.
“FA of Malaysia under president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin has a strong vision for Malaysia football, but he needs the support of the affiliates to make it happen.
“Maybe some changes need to be made and it is about time Malaysian football got it right after being one of the pioneer FAs in the region to have gone professional.”
Indeed, it is long overdue for the Malaysian professional league to make its mark and the time has come to get it right once and for all and make the news for the right reasons.
Background to Malaysian football
Malaysian football has a long history dating back to 1825 when British occupied Malacca and the troops brought football with them.
While it took a slow start, eventually in 1905, the Selangor Amateur Football league was formed and competition held.
The interim Selangor Football Association was only formed in 1926 when the need for a controlling body was imminent but only officially took control of the game in Selangor in 1936 when they were officially formed under the name – Football Association of Selangor.
Reference to Selangor is necessary because it was the first formed football association but in 1921 a new interest was created which was the foundation of the steady progress of the game until present day.
In 1920, the officers and men of the battleship HMS Malaya, which was in Malayan waters, played football and rugby matches against the local population and decided to commemorate these events by presenting the Cups for the annual competitions in Malaya.
Selangor Club, which was the then the most active in both games. Was delegated the task of forming a committee to run both competitions and out of which was born the Malaya Cup committee which staged the first tournaments in 1921 and continued till 1932.
The Malaya Cup football competition had aroused great interest throughout the country and the formation of state football associations was a natural development. Soon after 1921 Selangor, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor formed state associations and together with Singapore they were the first contestants in the Malaya Cup football tournament.
Later, the Services began to enter separately and Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu and Perlis formed their own associations and entered the competition after the second world war with 15 teams competing.
The Football Association of Malaya was sole authority of the competition.
Then the Malayan Football Association, was hastily formed in 1926 in order to field a Malayan team against an Australian side which visited Singapore that year and existed in the shadows for six years, before emerging as a more active form as Football Association of Malaya, which in 1933 had absorbed the Malaya Cup committee for football and thereafter took over the responsibility of for running the football competition.
After the second world war, the FAM was reorganised on a sounder basis in 1947 and entered upon its early years of golden era when Tunku Abdul Rahman was elected president in 1951.
Since then, Malaysian football has undergone many phases of changes in competition format and the management of the game.
The most significant being the game going semi-professional in 1989 launched by the late Sultan of Pahang as president of FAM with the present Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who was the Semi-Pro Committee chairman.
Then in 1994 saw the birth inaugural Pro League.
Again in the 25 years of professional football, it was undergone many changes in format, composition of teams – where club teams have joined the fray and the management of the competition.
The current being the Malaysian Football League (MFL) – formerly known as Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) - which was created with the aim to privatise the Malaysian professional football leagues. MFL operates and manages 5 entities which includes Super League, Premier League, FA Cup, Malaysia Cup and the Charity Shield.