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The rebirth of our football league

The good news is that the Pakistan Premier Football League will be played in September and October after a gap of three years but the PFF will have to make several changes to turn it into a success

The rebirth of our football league

Holding a lucrative Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) is one of the main targets of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF). But the federation will not be able to bring drastic changes in it because it does not have enough time. The event is to be organised in September and October this year.

The PFF will have to give the name of the champions to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) by the end of December for the AFC Cup, a second-tier club championship of the continent.

Pakistan missed the event for three years due to a conflict between the PFF and its rival group until a few months ago judiciary restored the FIFA-recognised federation.

My sources have told me that this time a huge amount of Rs25.5 million would be spent on the league. Out of that around Rs4.5 million would be given as cash prizes to the winners, the runners-up and the outstanding performers of the 12-team event.

I remember that a budget of Rs14 million had been prepared for holding the last Premier League in 2015 which could not be held when the conflict started as a result of the controversial elections of Punjab Football Association (PFA).

It means that this year the event will see improvement direly needed for the game which has immense following in Pakistan.

It has also been learnt that because of the shortage of time the organisers are expected to change its format for this season so that it could be completed in time.

I have covered ten seasons of the league and know about its deficiencies. Before going for the event this season with a huge purse at its disposal PFF should consider many factors.

It should expand its duration so that the teams get ample time between their matches. The past 11 leagues were generally labelled as “killer leagues” as a club had to play three matches in a week. In other countries, clubs play only one game in a week.

I don’t think this advice will be followed this season as for that the league will have to be started in August when Pakistan will be busy preparing for Asian Games and SAFF Cup.

The second thing is that the league should not be limited to a few cities. It must be taken to more cities of Sindh, and Abbottabad and Mardan. It would strengthen the sport in these regions which have a lot of talent.

And the three Balochistan-based clubs which are normally part of the league should be financially backed by the federation which now has huge money at its disposal.

Previously the PFF used to give Rs300,000 each to these three clubs as subsidy which is not sufficient. It should be increased manifold. Financially backing these clubs will add to competitiveness. Clubs prepare players who are then recruited by departmental teams.

Besides the subsidy the PFF also should try to do some marketing for the top-tier clubs and also educate them to strengthen their management which is one of the requirements of the AFC club licensing expected to be strictly implemented next season. The match officials, including referees and match commissioners, should not only be paid heavily but they should also be given decent accommodation and conveyance facilities so that they could serve effectively.

Till last season Rs1500 used to be given per match to the match officials. It would be highly supportive if this amount was doubled.

The PFF also should form an integrity committee to monitor the proceedings, the movement of the technical officials, team officials and players to prevent corrupt practices. I cannot prove but I am aware of the fact that matches are fixed in the league.

If possible pre and post match press conferences should be held. That would add weight to the event which is the sole source of income for the players.

The financially stable departments should try their best to hire foreign players which is very important for the success of the league. K-Electric used to play two Nigerian players, Sunday and Wilson, which was a positive step. Unfortunately the two have been permanently released. They should hire foreign players from other nations for the coming season.

A special trophy should be made for the PPFL. Through its proper unveiling before the event effort should be made to cement a strong bond between the fans and the trophy.

The federation should also try to generate revenue through marketing. Live telecast would be of immense importance which would create a market for the solid players. Without live coverage the league would be unsuccessful as usual.

The clubs also should engage particularly foreign-based Pakistani footballers like Zeeshan Rehman as their brand ambassadors. It would create a hype ahead of the event. PFF should also make clubs employ a qualified trainer and a physiotherapist. Pakistani players always face fitness issues.

The league venues should possess media tribunes with required facilities at the right area so that the journalists could cover the action effectively. Reporters do not get the respect that they deserve.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at [email protected]

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