Local Football

OPINION: Pinoy Futbol has a problem.

Former Azkals Manager Thomas Dooley looking dejected on the sideline during a match.

Philippine Football experienced a renaissance the last two years but it’s starting to look like it’s short lived.

2018 was a good year for Philippine Football, with the senior men’s national team reaching the Asian Cup for the very first time in it’s very long history. Club teams Ceres Negros (now United City FC) and KAYA FC continued to do well in continental tournaments. These events were supposed to be the catalyst to bring Philippine Football to greater heights. Yet the same problems that plague local football still persist. 

The current COVID-19 Pandemic has brought global sports to a screeching halt, with the PFL not being spared.

The 2020 Season of the PFL is off to a rocky start with Green Archers United deciding to withdraw from the league after debuting last year, while Leo Ray Yanson’s sale of Ceres Negros FC has caught not just the locals but southeast Asian football by surprise.

And the recent news of Global FC’s suspension has brought down the current number of teams to 6, including the ADT which is not even a full-time team.

These events, coupled with decades-old problems, things are not looking so well. But what are some of the problems that continue to ail the growth of the beautiful game locally and what can we do about it?

One thing that pops into my mind is the idea that when teams brand themselves as “teams of the masses” it will automatically make them one. It’s as if for them you don’t have to work for your fanbase.

If there’s one thing I learned in life, it’s that you can never truly force anything. It’s not always gonna go your way, claiming something does not make it automatically true. Posting on social media to gather support is well and good but it can only take you so far.

How can you call yourself a team of the masses if the locals can’t relate to you? As a team of a sport with very limited exposure and support in this country, you need to do everything in your power to get butts to the stadiums, eyes on TVs, and ears on the radios with everything there is to do about your team and there’s no way you can achieve that by using only one medium.

If you dare call yourself a team for the masses, then you better start walking the talk. Connect with the community, make your presence felt in the place that you represent.

No team started out building a fanbase from all over the country, they all started with their local communities. These people will be the lifeblood of any club.

Without them, you really have no reason to exist, unless you’re a team considered a plaything by a rich owner bankrolled by oil money. Unless the public feels no connection with your team, then you’re not in any way a team of the masses.

Maharlika FC enters the league as it’s newest team this coming 2020 season.

One cannot rely on diehard fans of the sport to sustain their clubs in the local scene. That is just the reality of the landscape here. Sure groups like Ultras Ceres, Lakeside Squad, and SOMK don’t need much convincing to go out and support their clubs but the efforts of these guys are not enough.

Clubs will have to go outside the circle of fans in the country and must work it’s way out into the consciousness of the ordinary Juan. As of this year, statistics show that around 70% of our population has access to the internet, and this could soon increase because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Going online has been the go-to avenue for local teams to get their names out there and looks to be the way going forward.

The PFL could focus it’s resources on marketing it’s already existing YouTube channel and broadcast it’s games there in the absence of a TV deal. The league can benefit from having it’s games shown free to majority of the nation, they can also control the advertisements that can be shown in between games.

With most of the country stuck at home, now is a good time to take advantage of growing their viewership through YouTube. Good viewership numbers could potentially show TV Channels that it could be worth taking a shot to buy the rights to broadcast the games on free TV.

During this Pandemic, logistics won’t be a problem as the PFL will be confined into it’s so called “Bubble” ala MLS style. The league can then invest that sweet sponsorship money they received from Qatar Airways to have it’s own in house broadcasting setup, minimizing it’s reliance on other established networks to do it for them.

Starting a professional sports team is a business. Nobody does it for charity or purely for love of the game, not even the Uber rich, anyone who says otherwise is lying in my opinion.

Too few teams treat themselves as products and fans as customers and I think that’s where they usually drop the ball. Teams should really start marketing themselves as something worth spending money on, and nobody wants to buy a crappy product.

The bestsellers are usually those that have a high degree of quality and/or those that are marketed really well and local football has none of those yet. Most of the time, to make money you have to spend a little money, and not just spend, you have to spend wisely as well.

Ceres Negros FC is now under a new but familiar management group.

And you can’t run anything properly if you’ve got the wrong people at the helm. PH Futbol has this tendency to be lax with regards to checking the background of potential owners before granting them licenses to operate teams.

How will the public know if these certain owners are even capable of running a club properly? It must be hard to be a former Ceres-Negros fan knowing your club was taken over by an ownership group who tried to rebrand one of PH Futbol’s biggest teams historically before bailing on them when the league refused to allow them to relocate and leaving them to an even worse state compared to before they took the reigns.

It also doesn’t help their case that their PR team currently has a bad rapport among some of the local football writers. But who knows, maybe they turned over a new leaf? It must have taken a very great pitch to LRY for him to even consider selling the team to the current owners given their track record. We’ll all just have to wait and see if it was the right decision.

http://www.philstar.com/sports/2019/02/13/1893374/global-cebu-rebrands-united-makati

PH Futbol is on the rise, that much is certain. Our Senior Men’s team has continued to do well internationally even if the structure of the sport here is in shambles.

It helps that people like PFL commissioner Coco Torre has the sport’s best interests at heart. But it will never reach it’s potential if those of us who care for the sport don’t help him in getting rid of the problems that continue to plague the sport here.

Us fans can help out in our own little ways by demanding transparency and accountability to those in charge of the game here. Ask your team’s owners and management regarding their plans with your team and make sure that they go through with it. We need to be vigilant and make sure that the foundations set by our footballing heroes from 2010 will not be in vain.

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