IT’S absolutely ridiculous how gigantic the difference is between Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and other teams in the M-League.
However, you can’t blame JDT for the state of things.
There’s no reason why a club with resources shouldn’t go all out and assemble the best players available to them, and it’s not their fault that no one else in this country can compete with them.
Yet, this does not augur well for the Johor side.
The longer JDT stand head and shoulders above other M-League teams, the more entrenched the status quo will be.
JDT will continue to attract talented players as they march towards cultivating a team who can compete with Asia’s elite, and their ostensible local rivals — Selangor, Pahang and Kedah among others — will feel powerless to compete and, thus, not even try.
A sorry M-League, however, will also affect JDT — making them complacent in the league and trying to muster up some urgency for the AFC Champions League.
Wednesday’s 5-1 thrashing by Japan’s Vissel Kobe shows JDT are not among Asia’s elite yet — they will struggle in the Champions League until there is enough competition in the domestic league.
JDT have no measuring stick in the M-League as they are far better than even their closest rivals. And when JDT finally meet real challenges in the Champions League, they will likely falter.
For that reason, it’s hard to feel impressed by JDT’s dominance.
Presumably, there’s some entertainment value in watching them hammer almost every team in the league weekly, and with guys like Diogo Santo, Safawi Rasid, Gonzalo Cabrera and Hariss Harun and more, the team have no competition.
As it stands, the situation in the M-League does them no favour in their quest to make a name in Asia’s most prestigious club competition.
Come Feb 28, the M-League will officially start with the Charity Shield, and JDT are expected to beat Kedah for their first title of the season.
Going by their strength, JDT will have no issues retaining the Super League for a seventh straight time.
Frankly, the money is too little in the M-League for other teams to build a solid squad and pose a serious threat.
What is RM1.5 million or RM500,000 in incentives from broadcasting rights and sponsorship in football these days?
The answer is — peanuts.
It has been five years or so since the Malaysia Football League (MFL) were formed, and frankly, they are struggling to turn the league into a commercial success.
The MFL need to work harder to attract big investors.
The organisation should be attracting at least RM80 million in sponsorship, excluding revenue from broadcast rights, for teams to stay afloat.
However, M-League teams should also be self-reliant. They need to get their marketing teams in action to look for investors and don’t just rely on their respective state governments for funding.
MFL president Datuk Hamidin Amin, no doubt, has done his best to get investors into the M-League, but it is still not enough.
The M-League needs a re-look. Having teams who are struggling to even pay salaries in the Super League is suicidal.
Our football gurus should seriously reduce the number of teams in the Super League from 12 to maybe eight financially-solid teams, and dump the rest in the Premier League and other lower-tier competitions.
For a league to sustain and attract sponsors, MFL need to make it competitive.
A competition which is unpredictable is definitely more exciting, and attracts fans to stadiums.
For the upcoming season, every fan knows JDT will win the Super League hands down.
As for the FA Cup and the Malaysia Cup, it all depends whether JDT are in the mood to sweep them up as well.