Clash of tobacco sponsors upsets Indonesian club

The 2006 Dji Sam Soe Indonesia Cup champion, Arema Malang FC of East Java, is angry about an Indonesian Professional League Board (BLI) ban on placing its sponsor's logo on its shirt in the 2007 season. "This situation is very difficult for us," manager Satriya Budi Wibawa told Wahyoe Boediwardhana of The Jakarta Post. "We have prepared a good team for next year's league but we can't put our sponsor's name on our jersey." Arema will represent Indonesia in the forthcoming AFC Champions League.

Satriya estimated the ban would cost the club Rp 15 billion (about US$1.65 million) from a sponsorship deal with X-Mild, a cigarette brand produced by Bentoel, the company which owns Arema, one of only four privately-owned football clubs in Indonesia).

The ban was imposed because of a clash with the Indonesian Premier League's naming rights sponsor, Djarum, one of the country's largest cigarette manufacture. It signed a four year sponsorship deal commencing in 2004 which injects about US$40 million into the Premier League and Division One each year.

BLI has promised compensation of Rp 500 million for clubs forced to forgo individual sponsorship deals with competing tobacco companies. However, Satriya is outraged with the new regulation. "It's not fair. We own and manage the club and we already have our own sponsor. Bentoel sponsored us before another cigarette company sponsored the league. How can they (BLI) place this ban on us," he said.

Besides the sponsorship issue, Arema is also upset over its grouping in the 2007 Premier League's East Division. The BLI put Arema in the same zone with archrival Persebaya FC of Surabaya. Arema management fears being grouped with Persebaya will affect its ability to attract sponsors. "No company will sponsor a match which is at risk of brawls," Satriya said.

Arema supporters clashed with Persebaya fans during the quarterfinals of the Copa Dji Sam Soe in September. Twelve people were injured in the incident and Rp 2 billion in damage was done to cars and the stadium.

The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI)'s board of appeals banned Persebaya from competing in Surabaya for one year. It also put a one-year ban on the team's supporters from wearing the club's colors or otherwise advertising themselves as supporters of the side while attending Persebaya matches. The punishment was much more lenient than the one handed down by PSSI's disciplinary board, which slapped a one-year ban on Persebaya competing in East Java and a three-year ban on the team's supporters from entering any football stadium in the country.