Saturday, December 3, 2016



In March last year, I wrote about the M-League being operated by an entity independent of FA of Malaysia (FAM).

Like many others, the patriot in me was seduced by the idea of a hybrid model league structure designed to elevate both the commercial appeal of the league and the standard of the national team.

"We studied various models in coming up with a structure. Eventually it was decided that FMLLP remain under the auspices of FAM because of national interests. Everything is done with the interests of the national team in mind.

"A totally independent body running the league will drive through its plans without taking into consideration the requirements of the national team," so said Kevin Ramalingam, CEO of FMLLP, or Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership.

Kevin and Co oversee five properties owned by FAM – the Super League, the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Sultan Ahmad Shah Cup or Charity Shield and the Malaysia Cup – in terms of enforcing the rules and regulations of the league, match fixtures, as well as the commercial and broadcasting rights for the M-League, with FAM affiliates having a stake in the structure.

That would be a boost for FAM, who has been running the game with a budget deficit for the past few years. FMLLP was to handle a guaranteed minimum amount of RM70 million a year in a deal with leading international media rights company, MP & Silva, beginning 2016, with a total revenue of RM1.26 billion spread over 15 years.

FMLLP’s baby steps thus far elicit a mixed review.

On the plus side, some of the properties have been given a fresh commercial brand – the Premier League is now known as the 100 Plus Premier League, Malaysia Cup is TM Malaysia Cup and the Superbest Power is the title sponsors of the FA Cup.

MP & Silva and FMLLP have managed to source an estimated RM40 million in sponsorship value, short however of RM30 million as promised. On the downside, there have been murmurs of discontent.

The FA Cup and Malaysia Cup draws were shown live on TV, breaking convention and good for sponsors but offer little for other stakeholders, including the print media. It could be a case of pleasing the sponsors and paying scant regard for the true supporters.

As the face of Malaysian football, the homepage offers a mixture of English and Bahasa Malaysia, similar to that of the FAM, while news, articles and profile features on the landing page are not accompanied with the latest statistics.

Kevin’s threat of issuing action against salary defaulters like the Kelantan FA has fallen on deaf ears. In fact FAM affiliates are gung-ho enough to ignore, question and undermine FMLLP’s authority.

The sad truth is that FAM has its noose on FMLLP’s neck. Kevin is not exactly a new kid on the block, having run the commercial arm of Kelantan FA previously but intelligent enough to hire two veterans of the game – former FIFA referees Nik Ahmad Yakub and Amir Sharifuddin Wong to put FMLLP on an even keel.

Nik Ahmad who previously served in FAM, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Indonesia is the technical audit and training manager, while Amir Sharifuddin is special projects manager.

But Kevin and Co understand the scenario. They remain subservient to the FMLLP Exective Board, currently comprising FAM representatives – president, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, two deputy presidents – Afandi and Datuk Mokhtar Ahmad, general secretary Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin and treasurer, Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria.

Under the pretext of protecting national interests, disciplinary matters relating to the league fall under FAM’s auspices, rendering FMLLP toothless in taking action against affiliates laden with unpaid salaries.

FMLLP has no financial department that is independent of FAM.

The red tape is not helping FMLLP’s reputation. The dynamics is such that local football is run by warlords linked to the ruling government.

And imagine the conflicting interests when a member of the FMLLP executive board and the No 2 of the national governing body happens to the deputy president of an affiliate in debt and yet to settle unpaid wages.

The idea is for FMLLP to hasten Malaysian football into the professional world.

The league congress which will consist representatives of the 24 teams in the top two-tier competitions – 12 from the Super League and another 12 from the Premier League – plus five from FAM, FMLLP will then be navigated by the decisions made by the teams themselves.

Before that to happen, Kevin and Co must learn not to promise the stars. Given the present scenario, we are not ready for it a fully professional and privatised football league. Unfortunately.

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