I'm going to do this blog post - on a favourite topic of mine, called Malaysian Football. I will cover a bit on history, a bit on the current, and my favourite - my proposals to improve the league. I may not be a football pundit etc etc, but I think my comments might just be interesting enough - and hopefully our dear politician YB Khairy Jamaluddin will take note of this blog post.
So, what do we know about Malaysian Football?
Our country's football league used to be amongst the top of the various leagues in Asia. Back then, the only teams who were allowed to participate were the various states, the Armed Forces, and Police, as well as Singapore and Brunei. Since 1994 amidst the match-fixing scandals, Singapore left us to start their own league, the S-League - and they have progressed so much ever since. Our own league on the other hand - struggled to impress and we just deteriorated further and further away.
We still have our apparently very prestigious Malaysia Cup - of which the record holder is still Selangor - with 32 wins. Singapore is 2nd - with 24 wins in total; these two champions are very far ahead of the rest, I think Perak has like 7 wins if I'm not mistaken.
But one thing we need to ask our locals - how many of us follow Malaysian Football?
Today, our Malaysian football league is called the 'TM Super League Malaysia'. It was formed in 2004 and it has been changing various formats and styles to try to improve the league standards. Currently, it has an odd number of 14 teams - I think the teams would play 26 games in total. Then, there's the 2nd tier - the Premier League with 12 teams.
What I would like to propose for the improvement and create more excitement is the following:-
1. A different league format.
The Super League should consist of an elite number - say 12 teams. The bottom one would be relegated to the Premier League automatically, whereas teams from 8th - 11th go through a playoff series, where the two losers go down to the Premier League. The same would go for the Premier League, where the Champion gets promoted, and then 2nd til 5th would fight for the playoffs for the 2 slots. The Premier League should also consist of 12 teams, to make it equal on both the first and second tier.
The top 9 teams of the Super League + the Premier League Champion - should form the two groups for the Malaysia Cup. Limit the Malaysia Cup to an elite 10 teams in two groups, where the top two of each group go into the semi-finals and so on.
The FA Cup can remain as it is. In total, assuming a team goes all the way, wins all the Cups there are, they would be playing a total of about 40 matches all season - that is lesser than the EPL's standards of about 50+ games, but I think we dont need to play that many matches to be good - important is the league must be of standard.
2. Change the transfer system.
While the European leagues have a standard transfer window, we should do the same as well. However, we should make the system slightly different though. Instead of having hefty money transactions between teams, we should introduce a player-trade system - or at least, lets use the player-trade system more widely. This reduces the amount of cash transactions within the leagues because they are already in dire straits trying to survive.
We should also introduce imports again - but this time, lets set some new rulings. Each team should have about 22-25 players on their payroll, so lets allow up to 5 foreigners. However, these 5 foreigners should consists of 2 players with Asian passports (i.e. Japan, Singapore, Thailand etc etc) and 3 other international players. The teams need to present their accounts to - say MSL Sdn Bhd or the FAM - of which the payrolls of these foreigners should not exceed 20% of the total payroll.
Hopefully no more bad imports like what Selangor did sometime ago.
3. Corporatize Malaysian Football - bring in the big boys!
Take a look at the following table - the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI components - comprising 30 of the country's largest corporations by market capitalization.
If the Government / Ministry of Youth and Sports were to offer out incentives or tax exempts to these large corporations, I'm quite sure these corporations are willing to fork out say, RM 5 million each to sponsor a team in Malaysian leagues. Treat it as a form of Corporate Social Responsibility - I think it can work!!!
In fact, I already envision this - the teams in this season's Super League each carrying a Corporate name behind their name. To the teams, it means an injection of cash and funds - to the corporations, it is actually a form of branding to them. Assuming this scheme can work, at least we have a lot more money pouring into the league - together with the current sponsors TM, Nike, Air Asia, MSN, Tune, RTM, 100 Plus, MAS, Sime Darby as well as Resorts World.
All the teams above carry a Corporate name - except Johor FC, KL Plus FC and the Terengganu PBDKT T-Team who already have corporate sponsors. We need these injection of funding into the league to make it work!
On top of these RM5million sponsorship each - the corporations will then get back 5,000 tickets back PER match. Mind you, most of these corporations listed above each have thousands of employees and staffs, and they need to give this out to their staffs for free for them to support the matches. On top of that, the teams also give out 1,000 tickets to school kids for every match. I know that it may sound so wrong to give out so many free tickets, but at this current moment, it does seem like not many people are willing to fork out even RM10 to watch a M-League match!
4. Give them primetime matchtimes.
I think if RTM can offer primetime live telecast, there would be a lot more interest in the matches as well. We need to do away with the Monday and Friday matches; instead, the Super League should all play at 8.45pm, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The Premier League then play at 8.45pm on Wednesdays, and then 7pm on Saturdays. I think these timings are crucial to garner more interest in local football.
5. Cut operations and running costs.
Firstly, I think the teams should all travel by coach/bus to the different venues around the country. If they have to fly, please take Air Asia. Its way cheaper than flying MAS. Certain matches - such as Premier League as well as Super League matches, if possible, be scheduled back-to-back at the same stadiums. This way, your spectators can get more value-for-money for their tickets. Of cos - this is only limited to a handful of teams - but even so, I think that can work. Stadium sharing should be a must for the smaller teams.
6. Have more state-wide junior leagues.
In the UK, there is the Premier League, the Division One to Three leagues, the Conference leagues, and then there are the junior leagues. One thing I observed that has worked so well is the Sunday Junior Leagues. We can introduce the same here to improve our children's and kid's football qualities and skills. 10% out of the RM5million corporate funding received - should be channeled into these junior programmes.
Oh... KJ's MyTeam reality football programme actually works too =)
I stopped watching Malaysian football for awhile, until the MyTeam programme came along. I thought that was a very good gimmick to bring in more attention and interest - in fact, it made a lot of people feel and think differently I am sure. Its like - 'Now Everyone Can Play Football...'
If all my above mentioned proposals can go through - I believe there is hope for our local football. Right now, I can ask 100 of my friends who watch football - and I can assure you that more than 75% dont follow local football at all. Its just so sad.
I think I shall end the blog post here. Thank you.