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Selangor v Johor Darul Ta'zim

Bulk ticket purchase by politicians not dissimilar to corporate allocations, says Selangor's Johan

7:49 PM GMT+8 25/10/2019
Johan Kamal Hamidon, Selangor, 2019
It is unfair for Selangor fans to criticise politicians who have given away tickets to their match against JDT for free, says sec-gen Johan Kamal.

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

Just two days before their second leg semi-final match against Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT), a number of Selangor fans were outraged by the discovery that a number of local politicians were giving away free tickets to the match.

A Twitter spat ensued between the more vocal Selangor fans and one of the politicians, with the fans criticising the club for failing to teach their supporters the importance of helping the team financially by purchasing tickets and attending the match regularly, while the politician insisted that he is still supporting the club financially by buying the tickets.

The vocal fans' concerns are not unfounded however, as Malaysian clubs have been known to provide free tickets to highly-anticipated cup final and knockout matches to local politicians, who in turn distribute them to their voters. This limits the number of tickets that clubs can sell over the counters before the match, resulting in the frantic tussle for tickets outside stadiums before most big matches.

In contrast, when Kedah insisted on selling most of their allocated tickets to their FA Cup final match against Perak in July and limited their distribution to politicians, the physical ticket sale conducted outside the Darul Aman Stadium took place very swiftly. Their fans did not have to queue long for tickets, and Goal at first even thought that the fans were staying away from the encounter, which they would win 1-0 in extra-time.

On Friday morning, Goal managed to sit down with club secretary-general Johan Kamal Hamidon, who explained that Selangor's decision to flog the tickets to politicians aligned with the state government is similar to giving away tickets to corporate sponsors.

When asked, he revealed that four politicians have bought 200 tickets each, while the club has fended off requests for free tickets made by other politicians. A formal letter, provided by a source, written by the club offering the tickets to politicians in the state, shows that a purchase of 200 tickets allowed them a 10 per cent discount.

"...The state government provides us with RM15 million in funding this year, which is about 70 per cent of our total sponsorship. By right, sponsors would request for tickets in return for their sponsorship. And when companies get tickets in return for their sponsorship, they give them away for free to their employees instead of selling them. What these politicians are doing is the same; they are taking care of their supporters' welfare. Why is it okay for major companies to do it, but not for politicians to do so?

"And buying the tickets is a nice gesture by them (politicians), when they could have asked them for free. They have financial allocations that can be spent on mosques and other facilities, and we're grateful for the fact that they chose to spend some of it on football," he noted.

But more importantly according to Johan, the bulk sale was conducted in order to maximise attendance

"Our average attendance this season is only 11,000, while the Shah Alam Stadium can seat 85,000. It's tough for us to fill the stadium to capacity, and we can't expect for it to simply fall from the sky. We promoted the second leg match tickets to firms, state agencies and politicians until October 18, one day before the first leg match, so they can buy them in bulk to be given away to their employees and people. It is a common thing that is done all over the world. Altogether, 20,000 tickets were sold this way. And we ended it on the 18th so that we could still secure a good crowd even if we had registered a bad result [in the first leg].

"The fans could still buy the tickets and we are hiding nothing. We've sold 50,000 tickets so far including season pass holders," noted the 32-year old official.

When asked whether this particular strategy will be continued if the Red Giants reach the final, the former student union representative was frank in his reply, that only season pass holders will be given priority to purchase the tickets, while the club will not decline bulk purchase by the corporate sector and politicians.

"It all comes back to the 11,000 figure. The season pass holders are the fans who deserve the priority for the final tickets. It's still fair because everyone had the chance to get a season pass [at the beginning of the season] and it benefits fans who attend all our games.

"In the final there'll be 40,000 tickets allocated to each team, and 11,000 have attended each game before. There will be no special [ticket purchase] privilege for the politicians who attend one match every season, and the same goes to fans who only come to the semi-finals. The remaining 29,000 final tickets are for them. Politicians writing us to buy in bulk will be entertained, as will fans who buy individual tickets online and over the counter."

Addressing the concern that receving free tickets from politicians will encourage Selangor fans to only attend matches when given free entrance, Johan rebutted that the giveaway is not dissimilar to the promotions conducted by many start-up companies.

"Even if they come using free tickets, they may be exposed to a good experience that will encourage them to come again next year," explained Johan.

"[Ride-sharing service] Grab gives away a lot of promotion too; are they encouraring a subsidy mentality among their users too? It's an investment. If you say Grab is doing a good job, then these politicians too are doing a good job of promoting Selangor matches. What is being said to these politicians [by the fans] are really unfair and unjustified. They have been victimised.

"Our season pass is also a form of subsidy from the club. Why were the fans congratulating us when we introduced the subsidised season pass, but not now? It's the same principle. We invest in promotions to encourage people to come to the stadium. Some work for them while other promotions work for others."

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