Is JDT's dominance hurting the M-League?

KUALA LUMPUR: As a genuinely competitive competition, the Super League has now become boring and predictable.

The last decade has produced the most absurd dominance ever witnessed in a respectable league in Asia, as Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) have triumphed 10 times in a row.

This excludes title wins in the Charity Shield, Malaysia Cup, and FA Cup.

The Southern Tigers are likely to make it 11 in 2024, and they may extend their dominance, even surpassing the world record for most consecutive league titles set by Talea FC of the Oceanic island Vanuatu, who won the Port Vila Premier League for 15 straight seasons from 1994 to 2008-09, one day.

Sadly, other Super League teams have evolved into mere sparring partners for JDT, aiding their quest for breakthroughs in the Asian Champions League.

JDT's complete dominance is a modern concept and a sad reflection of the lack of competitiveness in the M-League.

The gap between JDT and other clubs consistently widens each season.

Although signing the perfect mould of stars has been the key to their dominance, another form of signing has been equally crucial to maintaining their grip.

Being able to lure top stars of competing Super League clubs has been a double-edged sword that has always paid dividends for them.

JDT also have the financial muscle to sign highly-rated foreign players that others cannot afford.

A league-wide resignation over JDT's dominance has set in, with an inevitable acceptance of the club's title even before it is officially declared.

Despite the glaring gap at the top — 15 points from second-placed Selangor in the 14-team league — predictability alone cannot justify the belief that JDT's dominance is harmful, especially when compared to other leagues.

In Germany, for example, Bayern Munich have won 11 consecutive Bundesliga titles.

In Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid have won 17 of the last 19 La Liga seasons.

Football is not immune to hierarchies established over the course of decades that simply keep the more successful clubs at the top.

The Super League is no different.

Hopefully, JDT's stranglehold is encouraging other clubs to rethink their strategy and adopt more prudent policies.

What must also be kept in mind is that this is not your ordinary JDT side. It is arguably the greatest Malaysian club of all time, surpassing Selangor's feats in the past.

In that sense, it is easy to understand how many would be put off, especially when we see football, or sports in general, as a medium for unpredictability and competitiveness.

However, consider the many benefits and the influence this JDT team can have on the league and Malaysian football in general.

JDT serves as a prime example that success, both on and off the pitch, stems from manageable and responsible long-term planning.

That should at least provide some reassurance in the era of growing corporate involvement in the ownership and management of football clubs.

On a smaller scale, JDT's dominance also proves that internal investments have beneficial effects.

For all the talk of JDT's aggressive poaching of rival teams' players, they have built one of the most sustainable and successful youth academies in the country.

JDT's standards may be high, but indirectly, the club have the inevitable effect of encouraging others to follow suit.

In the long run, it will increase the quality across the league and Malaysian club performance in Asia.

So, is their dominance completely positive?

No, not from every perspective and certainly not in the short term. But in the long run, JDT are helping Malaysian football grow.

* Ajitpal Singh is the Sports Editor of NST

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