Down2Earth - Doing right by football fans and players

MY friend the Soccerguru, J. Manvir, remarked over lunch last week: "The two good things that have happened to Malaysian football this year are Ola Bola and Mohd Faiz Subri's goal."

While his subtle criticism and observations of the plight of local football is not new, in this case it resonates a little more among those of us who sit by the sidelines and wish for a return to the glory days of the game and sport in general.

While players like Mohd Faiz and fans and regular Malaysians like Ola Bola director Chiu Keng Guan are shedding blood, sweat and tears in putting Malaysian football on the map again, the so-called guardians of the game are the ones who keep taking it down an abyss.

The year kicked off with the familiar tale of players not being paid. It was reported that RM4.39 million was owed by three teams in the M-League to their players.

The Armed Forces reportedly owes 15 players RM3.7 million; the Kelantan FA owes five ex-players RM477,000 and Felda United still owes Azrul Ahmad RM220,000.

To make things worse, the Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia (PFAM) claims that Armed Forces had its players sign two contracts and declared a lower salary to the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).

FAM secretary-general Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin said the players got their just deserts for signing two contracts.

But who is the FAM to lecture the players and tell them to share the blame?

About the same time last year, the FAM was criticised for calling for bids for broadcast rights while it was in talks with MP & Silva to be its "global adviser".

Instead of naming the rights winner, the FAM got MP & Silva on board in a RM1.26 billion 15-year deal that saw a delay in the awarding of the broadcast rights and not all games being telecast.

What would have been the right thing to do was for MP & Silva to throw its hand in the ring of bidders and not for the FAM to have meetings in Europe with a third party while a bidding process was taking place back home.

The deal was touted as being good for football, as 40% of the guaranteed RM70 million a year to the FMLLP (FAM and MP & Silva Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership) from 2016 to 2021 will go to M-League teams.

This figure will be increased to RM85 million per year from 2022 to 2024, RM92 million annually from 2025 to 2027 and RM103 million a year from 2028 to 2030.

With unpaid salaries which means defaulting on statutory payments, teams and players will benefit from this deal, where teams even risk losing their licence if they default on salaries.

Back to broadcast rights, the winner was only announced on Feb 11 this year when Media Prima signed a deal until 2018.

And the need for secrecy over the details of the broadcast deal – that it is a private matter, only goes to raise all forms of speculation, further cementing the perception that there is more drama off the pitch than on it.

While such contracts may be private, national football belongs to the people and they have a right to know why it took a year to decide on broadcast partners, hence depriving fans of many live matches and the loss of potential advertising revenue to the FAM or FMLLP.

Perhaps with the parachuting of MP & Silva, there was a need to go back to the drawing board? A move that probably caused at least one bidder to pull out despite a RM75 million a year offer.

Perhaps a change at the top is what is needed to set things a-sail for the FAM and Malaysian football. Its president, the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, has made known his intention to leave (again).

It may be a good idea as it will take much more than a name change (from Harimau Malaya to Harimau Malaysia) to take us out of our worst FIFA ranking ever – 171 out of 209 countries).

As many patriotic Malaysians have begged, leave sports to the sportsmen.

Terence hopes Mohd Faiz's goal is an omen of better things to come for football. Feedback: letters@thesundaily.com