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M-League matches on TV should be free to encourage a following and build a wider fan base. - NSTP/File pic

Manchester United, unpaid wages and broadcasting rights are the three divisive issues being most talked about in the local football scene at the moment.

When the news first broke out that the Red Devils would be visiting Kuala Lumpur to play a M-League selection in July, all hell broke loose.

Those with vested interest were frantically trying to find out who was the person behind the release of the news.

Some even questioned why an agent, known as Malaysia’s version of the super agent Jorge Mendes and who screwed up big time when he brought a top Spanish club to KL a few years ago, is involved in bringing the 20-time Premier League champions.

Anyway, why the fuss? Man United are now the fading giants of the Premier League and are set to lose their status as England’s richest club if they do not finish top four and qualify for the Champions League this season.

Maybe these concerned parties are just frustrated that they were not offered contracts to run the Man United show.

It would have been better for the organisers to cash in on Liverpool’s impending Premier League victory and bring the Reds to KL for an exhibition match.

Unfortunately, Liverpool do not come cheap. The Red Devils are cheaper to bring in for exhibition matches probably because of their present mediocre season.

The football fraternity, however, should be more concerned about the state of the M-League, not Man United.

Many teams have reduced their budgets while some players are jobless.

Kudos to the FA of Malaysia (FAM) for issuing warning letters yesterday to Super League’s Melaka and Police along with Premier League’s Kelantan.

The national body have warned them to either settle salary arrears of players and officials, or risk points deductions and expulsion from the M-League.

However, if you analyse the problem comprehensively, FAM are only taking action based on the complaints that players and officials had filed to the national body.

There are many more players, who have been taken for a ride by teams, out there who have not filed complaints with FAM and the Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia (PFAM) for further action.

In fact, one of the three teams issued warning letters by FAM have not even settled the wages of their 2018 President’s Cup and Youth Cup teams.

But these players do not want to come forward as they have been promised that their salaries will be paid eventually.

Perlis were expelled from the Premier League last season after failing to submit their financial statements to the Malaysia Football League (MFL) and to settle salaries.

Now, these three teams are in danger of losing their M-League status.

However, there is no reason for FAM to dilly-dally by offering Melaka, Police and Kelantan three chances to pay up before expulsion.

The M-League is not a casino where authorities can gamble the livelihood of players.

Football is their rice bowl and ‘cancerous’ teams should be kicked out for good.

Why shouldn’t they be expelled immediately and instead given three chances?

It is because their cases are not new as it has been going around for the last few months.

Maybe the issuing of warning letters is just a ‘sandiwara’ by FAM to get everyone excited. We will wait and see the final outcome.

FAM and MFL must look into the salary issue seriously as players, coaches and officials who do not get paid are like an ‘open goal’ for bookies to approach.

We hope the Economic Control Programme, a debt-prevention initiative introduced by MFL ahead of the new season, will end the practice of ambitious teams with small budgets spending beyond their means.

It is also puzzling that with just six weeks before the start of the new season, the M-League has yet to secure a title sponsor and a host broadcaster.

Telekom Malaysia (TM) is expected to come on board with a rumoured RM15 million yearly sponsorship with RTM likely to be one of the host broadcasters for the Super League, Premier League, FA Cup, Malaysia Cup and Challenge Cup.

According to MFL, they are in the final stages of negotiations with various media with the intent of having a shared broadcast instead of just one specific broadcaster.

It is a challenging time for football due to the unfavourable economic climate.

As for the rakyat with some who have been laid off, they rather watch for free than on pay TV.

I, myself, have terminated my Astro subscription recently simply because it is too expensive.

However, I will not be deprived of football matches as many mobile Apps are offering ‘live telecast’ of the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A.

For starters, the M-League is not a commercially successful competition yet, and it does not have the pulling power to attract big companies to invest in it.

No doubt, things are getting better thanks to Johor Darul Ta’zim, who have created some excitement not only in Malaysia but also Asia, but overall our league is struggling to even stay afloat.

In my view, the M-League matches on TV should be free for now. We have not reached the stage where football authorities can charge fans to watch the M-League on TV.

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