New Malaysian government must push clubs into embracing financial independence

Malaysians recently opted for change in the general election, but are their football clubs prepared for possible changes under the new government?

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

Last week Malaysia heralded the first time ever the country changed its federal government, following its fourteenth general election.

The Pakatan Harapan (Hope Alliance) coalition of parties defeated the Barisan Nasional (National Front), who had been ruling Malaysia continuously since it obtained independence from the United Kingdom in 1957.

Malaysians rejoiced in the change of power at the federal level, but they also welcome the political tsunami at the state level, when seven states that had been held by the National Front, are now in the hands of the Hope Alliance, excluding Kuala Lumpur which is run by the federal government, on top of Selangor and Pulau Pinang that had already been governed by the Alliance.

Pakatan supporters

Harapan supporters. Photo Roslan Rahman/Getty

As most Malaysian clubs are funded by the state they are based in or the federal government, the election results has raised one pertinent question regarding the future of club football in the country; Will the new federal and state governments continue funding Malaysian clubs?

Perhaps the answer is the new state governments must also push the clubs into embracing a new era of its own, by weaning them of state funding.

Many have spoken out against the negative effects of state funding to the sport itself; such as the lack of innovation and improvement, the absence of transparency, the sidelining of fans and wage inflation.

On the side of the governments too, they are currently focused on overturning the country's financial predicaments they have blamed on the previous government, and this is especially why it would be irresponsible for them to continue spending the tax payers' money wantonly on a sport.

Azim Rahim, Felcra FC, Wan Zack Haikal, Felda United, Malaysia Premier League, 23042018

Felcra FC and Felda United in the Malaysia Premier League are owned by government-linked companies, and indirectly receive funding from the federal government.

Photo from Felda United FC Facebook

This is not to say they should not be helping the clubs in any way whatsoever. Their funding must be more targeted, given with specific instructions to promote youth or grasroots football or acquire assets, and with the condition that the spendings must be audited and accounted for. The National Football Development Programme (NFDP), which was established by the previous government, is one fine example of a government assistance in the game. And any targeted financial assistance should only be given with the aim of reducing the need for it gradually within the next five or ten years.

Malaysian clubs need to look into establishing new methods of financing, and the league too must assist this effort, or prod them into embracing financial independence through regulations.

One set of fans apparently did not waste any time pushing for financial independence of their club. Just today, a group of Selangor fans met with the Selangor state youth executive council member Amirudin Shari, a former manager of the team himself when the state still funded the club, presenting their proposal of partial ownership of the club by fans.

Strangely enough, Malaysian clubs need not look far to study financing and funding. They have to only look down to the lower divisions to find out how the community clubs fund their organisations. Who knows, maybe prominent community clubs such as Shah Alam Antlers and Axis-O2 FC deserve places in the upper tiers, to replace clubs that are not financially self-sustainable.

By our count, fourteen out of twenty clubs in the top two tiers have been receiving government funding. Surely this is too many to be handled by a federal government that is intent on weeding out corruption and leakages.

Whereas for Malaysian clubs, they need to transform themselves and adopt a more modern approach in their running, or risk having the rug pulled out from under them by politicians who now have more pressing issues to attend to.