Program promotes 'business of football' in ASEAN

Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, the deputy president of the Football Association of Malaysia, agrees there are weaknesses in football in the 11-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) but remains confident of its future. Launching the Futuro III Administration and Management Course in Petaling Jaya, he said such programs initiated by the world body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation will help mould the future development of football in the region.

Tengku Abdullah said three negative elements such as match-fixing, unprofessional administrators and lack of matches, especially at school level, had prevented the growing of the sports in this region.

"There should be a program, with the cooperation of the universities, to create a pool of young football administrators to ensure the football house is run professionally," he said.

"ASEAN as a body is sound and united but there are factors which could be further improved," he said. "There are some things which I feel that we need to look at and that includes the emphasis on making the schools more involved as well as having administrators who are professional through and through.

"But the elements of match-fixing and bookies are things which are negative in ASEAN although I hope that through courses like this, it will empower those running the game in ASEAN the chance to improve," he added, as reported by the New Straits Times (14 Feb).

Urs Zanitti, FIFA’s head of development programmes and services, confirmed the Futuro III course is to help participants initiate changes within their respective federations to make them more modern and professional. "FIFA hopes the participants will go home and teach others on how to manage their business, as that is what football has become, a business," he said.

The Asian Football Confederation secretary-general, Datuk Peter Vellapan, took the opportunity to rebuke football federations in ASEAN for being the Asian continent's bottom group in FIFA world rankings.

"Without proper development programs, with schools nowadays neglecting their role to promote the sports and the football houses not administrated by professionals, I'm sad with the ASEAN football scenario," he said as quoted by Bernama newsagency.

"In the past, Malaysia through the Merdeka Tournament was the catalyst for growth in Asia. But now, the ASEAN region is regarded as the least progressive in the continent and lacking far behind compared to Japan and South Korea. The difference is that Japan and South Korea adopt the concept of professional management," he was quoted by S Sivabalan in The Star.

He said the AFC felt that efforts to instil professional management skills among ASEAN officials had not been successful because officials who attended previous Futuro programmes failed to implement the skills they acquired. "We had Futuro I and II and now Futuro III. All I can say is for the last 25 years, we have had a lot of wastages,” he said.

He also blamed FIFA officials for just coming to teach the officials without having proper monitoring of implementation by the ASEAN officials. "ASEAN officials should wake up as football is no longer for the honorary or amateur secretaries. They should also realise the importance of communications, marketing and media relations,” he said.

Datuk Vellapan also said there was not enough focus on grassroots development among ASEAN countries with 70% of the budget allocation spent on the national teams.

"ASEAN have the quality but they just do not have the will to take it to the next level,” he said. "I hope the officials do not just come and sit through the courses. You have to go back and become a catalyst for improvement. If not there won’t be anything to talk about for the next 100 years.

“Football is now a business and it’s a goldmine. For example, the sponsorship for the World Cup in Germany was signed six years ago. The tickets for the Finals have been oversubscribed by 27 times. In 1970, the World Cup was US$400 million. The 2006 World Cup is worth US$3 billion. The next World Cup in South Africa is expected to be worth US$4 billion.

"Asia is a goldmine with 3.7 billion people living here and we need good leadership to reap the benefits."