The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) must be ready to meet different challenges if they hope to realign the M-League, their professional League of 26 years’ standing.
Applications for licences to compete in the M-League’s 2021 competition must be filed by today, while there is a deadline of Sept 30 for participating teams to be turned into football clubs, and not managed by state football associations.
It is mandatory for states and clubs to privatise their teams and be licensed by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
There will be no extensions to the deadlines and FAM is assisting teams that are facing problems with the transition.
FAM general secretary Stuart Ramalingam said that while problems were expected closer to the deadlines, decisions will be made in the best interest of football.
While it has not been smooth going for the state FAS, most of them have been cooperative during the process, said Ramalingam.
The move will change the landscape of Malaysian football and FAM is bracing itself to play a bigger “educational and empowering” role to ensure the stability of the structure and to evolve further.
Ramalingam said: “The FA to FC is a journey, not a destination and we have only taken the first step.”
It is a giant, long overdue leap and Hamidin Mohd Amin, president of FAM and Malaysian Football League (MFL), cautioned:
“The days of handling things with kid gloves are over. Next year, we will go by the book. Teams have to be mindful as MFL will not be lenient anymore.”
Changing the mindset of present officials overnight is not going to be easy despite Malaysian football having gone professional almost three decades ago.
There is strong indication that many officials in the state FAs are going to jump across to the FCs. FAM remains firm that officials cannot be in both bodies.
The exodus to FCs would mean new state FA officials will emerge and this could be good and bad.
Good, because a younger set of officials could emerge. Whether it is attractive for ‘new blood’ is debatable because their jobs are not glamorous as they would be confined to grassroots development and state leagues.
Bad, because educating new state FA officials on the workings of FAM and waiting for them to work efficiently could take time.
The attraction has always been that managing the professional teams is where the money is.
Whether the mindset of state FA officials who move to FCs will change is anybody’s guess.
FAM is also concerned about the appointments of clubs’ CEOs because a great deal of success will hinge on their calibre and ability to chart a professional course.
Then again, several outfits may not be able to form a company to manage their teams and may not have the means to become a FC.
They could end up in the amateur M3 League. Those who could be affected include Felda and UiTM in the Super League and UKM in the Premier League.
There could also be teams who do not qualify for the licence.
If these situations occur, the number of teams in the Super League could be reduced or teams could be promoted from Premier League to keep the 12-team format.
That, in turn, might see fewer teams in the second-tier league which presently also has 12 teams.
FAM and MFL look set to have their hands full when both the deadlines expire, making the transitions a tedious process.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.