Since Johor Darul Ta'zim FC came into existence in the 2013 following a restructuring and rebranding exercise, they have undoubtedly been the biggest spenders in Malaysian football from players recruitment and contracts to the stadium and training facilities. Players and coaches alike are all in agreement that they have the best available facility and structure as a club, making them the biggest draw in the country.
But all that could change starting 2020 as the Malaysian Football League look to introduce the Financial Fair Play (FFP) concept, taking a leaf out of the Spanish La Liga who used the same method to improve the flailing financial situation of their clubs.
That would mean that club are only able to spend a proportionate amount based on the income that they generate from gate revenue, commercial deals as well as other sponsorship aspects. Everything will have to be put onto paper and submitted to the league governing body to control and regulate.
Unlike previous seasons where HRH Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) can personally inject money into his beloved JDT when the need arises like purchasing new players to help their competitive cause, he will no longer be able to do that if and should the FFP comes into fruition next season. Everything will have to be in accordance to the earnings of the club.
Yet in an exclusive interview with Goal, TMJ intimated that the proposed new ruling was at the behest of fellow MFL partners and while it basically ties one if his hands, he is embracing the new challenge for the overall good of the league and Malaysian football.
"We are on the list at FIFA among the biggest number of salaries not being paid. We want to change the perception therefore Financial Fair Play is one of the ways to approach it.For example, I have money but my club does not make enough money, I cannot pump in money," TMJ told Goal.
"Like Peter Lim at Valencia, he can't buy anyone he wants. So it's good for the clubs that I can't pump in my money any more. Otherwise I can inject money. So this is based on your marketing performance. Depending on how much your club makes and if the marketing performance is good, there's a good percentage of money available there to be used.
"Of course there will be a limit on how you can spend. Still under negotiations because this is proposed by the other clubs like Selangor, Melaka, Kelantan and Negeri Sembilan. Everybody wants this because they are afraid that if there's no FFP, then JDT can go buy their players.
"So being a gentleman in this competition, I said fine. If that is what you all want, we'll consider. If we discussed and we think among the members that it is not going to work, then we won't do it. But if the members request and want it, then we will have to comply. It's up the members."
Over the years, financial troubles conflicting teams in Malaysia have remained one of the biggest problems for the sport. Teams like Kelantan and Pulau Pinang in seasons past, and most recently Perlis have all spend beyond their means, accruing debts that were unmanageable.
Football is the number one most played and most followed sport in Malaysia, a sport that no aspiring-to-experienced footballers deserved to be mistreated. It is a sport as well as an occupation for these players and they should never have to wonder when the next salary is going to come.
Once the FFP is drafted out and in place, the next battle for the teams will be on the revenue front where the teams with the best marketing tools and personnel will be able to dictate to what level their respective teams will be able challenge in a season.
TMJ and JDT have led the change in recent times to move to a club structure where sponsorship and club revenue are priority focus to enable the continuous development of the team. The new stadium that is expected to be completed in the middle of 2019, will give them the next push and that is where the rest of the teams will have to look to emulate. If not in the same scale, at least in the same priority.
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