The biggest change in Malaysian football

Privatising the M-League will be the best decision that FAM have done in a long time, if the details are right

Malaysian football is about to go through the biggest transformation that the sports have ever seen in its history. It’s not the change of format to the Malaysian Super League or the Malaysia Cup. It has little to do with whether foreign imports are allowed to play for the respective states or clubs, competing in the local competitions. The big change is none other than the privatisation of the M-League from 2015 onwards. It may look far ahead, but with it being another two more years before the switch over, given the huge workload and planning that goes into the change, two years will not look like too much time.

In fact, October will see two separate workshops that will focus on the matter of privatisation of the league. The first of which will be held next week will involve numerous parties including the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) which will study at length the procedure that is required to privatise the league. The second one will be held later in the month involving representatives from Japan Football Association (JFA) and J-League officials.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima are one of the popular teams in the J-league.

The latter of the workshops will be one that will be watched with keen eyes. What is known is the force that J-League has grown into, despite the tender age of the league compared to M-League. This workshop will see both parties signing an agreement to facilitate the sharing of information and knowledge on how to make the change. The expertise that they have and the experience that they’ve picked up over the 20 years will shed plenty of light on the working required to have a successful privatised football league.

The change will bring about the change of landscape surrounding the way things are run in this sport. One of the big aspects being looked at will be the commercialisation of the sport. As is with majority of the leagues around the world, television rights or simply the TV deal and the money that comes along with it, will be the key factor for so many things. That’s from the league itself, but the teams themselves will also have to install a marketing or commercial department to figure out means to generate more income.

Apart from the TV rights, teams should also start looking into having their own football stadiums. Not the ones that are rented from the state, as it is right now. Ticketing prices will have to be studied before being fixed but there’s no doubt that this second source of income will play a crucial role in generating revenue for the team. Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin spoke of the need for teams to source for bigger and better sponsors, and that is the final of the three major means to generate income for the team.

T-Team have a very good home support but their stadium has room for improvement.

The management of facilities is something that cannot be overlooked. If one frequents the stadiums in Malaysia, what is immediately noticeable is the condition of the facilities. Dirty seats, unmaintained toilets and poor public announcement systems are just some of the problems that football fans have to go through to watch a local match. If any hotels provide those poor facilities to its customers, there will be plenty of complaints and potentially drop in ratings if the conditions aren’t improved. With the privatisation, hopefully everything will be run in a more professional manner and such hospitalities will not be overlooked. After all, fans (customers) are naturally attracted to better services.

One of the more important aspects of the management that Malaysian football can benefit with the partnership with their Japanese counterparts is the playing surface. By that, it means the pitch, field, grass or whatever you want to call it. It is one of the main grievances of our local football, the state of the playing surfaces which are generally poor. Being a tropical country, the pitches are subjected to harsh conditions of extreme heat and torrential rain, sometimes within hours of each other. If you watch Japanese football which are available on a certain local satellite television, it is hard not to notice the supreme condition of the pitches there all across the league.

The three main revenue points mentioned above will generally be consumed by the main team competing in the M-League. That is only natural because success on the pitch helps to breed success off the pitch. However, what we can learn from the J-League is the continuous supply of quality players. Over the last 10 years, many Japanese players have begun plying their trade in Europe. Despite losing some of the league’s best players, Japanese teams still find themselves consistently in the final stages of the Asian Champions League. The only reason why they have been able to do that is down to good developmental programmes.

Privatising a football league is not something that happens overnight. The amount of groundwork that needs to be done in order for it to be successful is massive. It is a move that brings better and more professionalism into the local game and that is something which can be supported by everyone involved. The jurisdiction between the body that runs the privatised league and the national governing football body will have to be defined clearly to ensure there is no confusion.

What we know now is that Malaysian football is bound for a big change that if done right, is a step in the right direction.

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