THE Covid-19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees. It has not spared anyone, including the much-loved game of football which is a big industry and has a huge following.
Its impact is global — with leagues, championships and team’s activities all coming to a halt. There is no clue as to when they can resume, and in a worst case scenario, they have to be abandoned or scrapped.
Malaysia is not spared, leaving FAM and the Malaysian Football League (MFL) taking drastic measures as the lives of players, coaches, officials, and fans are more important than the game.
Football tournaments at all levels, from the M-League onwards, have to be scrapped following the government’s Movement Control Order (MCO).
Malaysian football rolled to a complete stop from last week till March 31.
And by the looks of it, the MCO could well be extended with even stronger measures if the government’s call to “stay at home” is not taken seriously.
Football, along with the citizens and economy, is going to suffer during this period.
State FAs are already thinking of slashing their players’ salaries as they complain about loss of gate collection due to empty stadiums.
While Covid-19 has been cruel to mankind, it is time for FAM and MFL to be cruel to their affiliates to be kind.
State FAs and clubs cannot simply continue to depend on FAM or MFL for subsidies to run their teams whenever there is a ‘force majeure.’
While some teams and players around the world are donating to help fight the coronavirus crisis, it’s the opposite here, as some teams in Malaysia use the Covid-19 outbreak as an excuse to cut players’ wages apart from asking for handouts.
Yes, the English Football League announced a £50 million (RM253 million) relief package for financially stricken clubs during their league shutdown, but this was to help the lower division clubs.
Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia president Safee Sali has come out with a strong stance, declaring they do not agree with the salary cut, which would affect the livelihoods of footballers.
Safee pointed out that the International Federation of Professional Footballers have said there is no need for players to suffer a paycut due to the league suspension.
He added that reducing the salaries of the players (under such circumstances) is not stated in their contracts.
This reminder to the teams was also made by FAM secretary-general Stuart Ramalingam who said the national body will keep a close watch on such a drastic move.
MFL chief executive officer Datuk Ghani Hassan also issued a warning to the teams, and he said they will make sure all the teams adhere to the contracts of the players.
This brings us to the question of how many of the teams in the M-League are actually worthy or deserving to be in the league.
Are they financially sound and capable of taking care of themselves?
We still have teams docked points for failing to settle salary arrears and we still have teams crying they don’t have money.
Another issue that has cropped up is several teams are complaining that their presidents from the previous government, can no longer bring in money or help to sustain them.
States and clubs still depending on political connections for funding?
So, they actually can’t stand on their own two feet. How did these teams get approval to be in the M-League?
It’s time to kick these teams out of the M-League.
They just do not have the means to exist as a team professionally and they are in the league for the personal gains of a few officials.
They shouldn’t be in the M-League at all, a place in some amateur league is all they deserve.
I have said this many times and I am saying it again: If only eight teams can meet the requirements of professional football and operate like a business venture, so be it for the M-League.
The rest of the country have to start emulating Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) to be a powerhouse.
And officials who wear more than one hat, should decide what they want to be. They shouldn’t be holding several posts, as this tantamount to conflict of interest.
If this means FAM have to run the M-League, and not leave it to the MFL, then do it.
After all, FAM have the manpower and expertise. And they have done it before.
It is pointless having duplication of sports bodies with conflict of interest.