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Learning from J-League, MFL must adopt best practices

9:05 pm AEST 3/5/19
Kevin Ramalingam, Mitsuru Murai, World Football Summit Asia 2019
The Japanese league has come up leaps and bounds in the last 20 years and that is where Malaysian Football League must look to for improvements.

Being the host of the 2019 World Football Summit Asia, the first of its kind to be held in the continent, Malaysia shared the stage with Japan in one of the sessions aptly named, 'The Potential of Asian Football Leagues and The Challenges for its developments'.

Chief executive officer of MFL Kevin Ramalingam sat alongside his J-League counterpart in Mitsuru Murai in an hour long session discussing the virtues of respective leagues as well as the measures taken to not only improve the leagues but to ensure the continuous prosperity of the leagues.

But the Malaysian league and the Japanese league are vastly different where they stand in their growth and standing within the most watched sport in the world. The latest deal which J-League signed with OTT provider DAZN is worth USD200 million a year while M-League's deal signed in 2018 stand only at RM60 million a year (~USD15 million).

Of course Japan had the headstart over Malaysia as their revamp took place 26 years ago while the latter only began in earnest six years ago. Rather than compare with the multi-million dollar business that is the top European leagues like the English Premier League or the Spanish Laliga, MFL will do well to cast their eyes at the J-League.

"We have a long term vision. By 2030 we want to be the best 4 leagues in the world. There are two main factors – club management system. 55 clubs in J-League but none of them have excessive debts. We never have delay in payment of salary. We never have match fixing in the history. We never have violence and discrimination, which is our foundation.

"Second factor is having all the clubs being community orientated. We’re not allowing all the clubs to have brand of company names in the team. The company could invest in the short term but the club has to have long term vision that doesn’t change.

"Our clubs doing local orientated activities more than 390 times a year which is more than one a day. This is the kind of unique point that we have. This is our strength that we hope to build on to make this one of the best in the world," said Murai in his speech at WFS.

Picking up the likes of Andreas Iniesta, Fernando Torres, David Villa and Lukas Podolski in recent times meant a huge amount is spent on salaries but the fact that these clubs are still very much solvent and does not face payment difficulties showed the financial might of Japanese clubs.

Till this day, some teams in Malaysia are still struggling with their finances and very much reliant on the mercy of state funds. A far cry from the corporate structure at these Japanese clubs that generate income and revenue for the team to spend on playing staff.

One part that cannot be overlooked is the community element which sees the Japanese clubs doing more than their fair share of reaching out to new fans and ensuring that their existing fanbase grows over time. The consistent attending figures a proof of this particular strategy.

Laliga may be the league used to be the benchmark for the new MFL 50 years blueprint expected to be launched in the near future but closer to home, there's one which perhaps football in Malaysia need to look at first.


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