The shame of M-League teams riddled with debt

M-League football teams, struggling to stay afloat in a sea of debt, must stop treating the youth and sports ministry and state governments as cash machines.

Some state teams are sinking deeper into a sludge of enormous debt, running up expenses that far outstrip incomes.

It is infuriating when state football associations continue to seek a bailout by taxpayers to cover salaries of players and coaches, transport and flight costs, and dues to the Inland Revenue Board and the Employees Provident Fund.

Almost every team in the M-League claims to have suffered losses during the Covid-19 lockdown because of poor gate collections. But teams will lose out on gate collections only when they play in empty stadiums when the league resumes at the end of August.

Only ill-prepared administrations with no reserve funds need to rely on gate collections to see them through the season.

Moreover, teams saved a bundle on operational expenses and travel costs during the lockdown period, with further savings in salary cuts among players, coaches, and administrative staff since March 18.

More money will be saved with the remaining season reduced to a one-round league.

Let’s look at Super League side Kedah and Premier League Kelantan: both failed to pay their players and coaches, in Kedah’s case for the last five months, it is believed.

Kedah FA president Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, who is also the menteri besar, said last Sunday that the state government cannot arbitrarily channel funds to settle arrears of salaries and other dues.

Former menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir was said to have pledged an allocation of RM1.5 million to the FA, but the funds have not been approved by the current state government.

“Do the fans want me to take the money meant for the poor, orphans and single mothers and channel it to the players?” he said. Sanusi said the state FA’s problems began under the previous management, and current debt stands at RM10.6 million.

But when he took over as FA president, Sanusi must have known that it was his responsibility to settle the association’s liabilities.

In Kelantan, FA officials met with sports minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican last week for advice on how to settle the RM2 million in wages owed to seven foreign players.

The Penang FA said last week they had resolved their salary crisis after paying its players and officials what was owed for April, May and June.

Just as with last season, the state government helped settle the debts.

Phasing out state FAs from professional football

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has finally moved to end the role of state football associations, 26 years after football went professional.

It is now mandatory for states and clubs to privatise their teams for the AFC Cup and Champions league tournaments, and to obtain licences from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), by Sept 30. Applications must be submitted by Aug 31.

Privatisation will ensure accountability and make those taking over the clubs responsible for the liabilities.

Teams who fail to meet the deadlines will be banned from next season’s M-League.

Previous attempts by the FAM to press for a professional setup were met with resistance by state associations and some of them are expected to oppose the move at council meetings.

There are already murmurs that some state FAs have suggested outsourcing their teams.

Professional football is much like a business and needs to be run like a corporate organisation with transparency, integrity and accountability.

Above all, it must be a sustainable organisation with funds sourced through sponsorship, profitable ventures and football industry businesses like merchandising, branding and advertising.

State FAs must decide if they want to be part of a professional football setup or remain as amateurs and intensify Malaysian football’s ills.

 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.