Time for Malaysian football to unshackle political chains

Izham Ismail

The downfall of the Barisan Nasional government at the last general election saw a corresponding leadership change in many football associations in Malaysia.

And that, according to Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia (PFAM), is a worrying indication of associations’ dependence on political support and funding from state governments to survive in the M-League.

PFAM chief executive officer Izham Ismail insisted football should be above politics and it would have been business as usual for the associations despite the May 9 election results if they were indeed professionals.

“The fall of the (Barisan) government resulted in changes in almost all FAs. That shouldn’t be the way and it says a lot about the industry,” said Izham.

“And this is when you have people who take football for a ride.”

He added football associations should start marketing their teams and brands as this would ensure players’ welfare was secure.

Izham said there were “fewer than five teams” which are financially strong in the M-League.

“These teams are capable of ending the season without financial issues and are capable of competing in the next few seasons. But in my eyes there are fewer than five (with financial strength).”

Perlis FA is the latest to face financial woes. Questions arose as to why the Northern Lions were allowed to play in the Premier League in the first place only to be booted out in the early days of competition.

It is mandatory for teams to submit their financial records before the league starts. However, it remains unclear if Perlis FA had submitted the right paperwork to reflect what it had in its coffers.

Asked if the Malaysian Football League (MFL) and the Sports Commissioner’s Office were being “too nice” to such teams and if it is high time to penalise FA officials who create the mess, Izham said: “The MFL and Sports Commissioner’s Office have done what is required but at the same time, the (FA) officials must not be allowed to wash their hands off when such issues arise as the players end up being victims.”

While stressing PFAM enjoyed a cordial relationship with the FA of Malaysia, Izham admitted there was a structural problem that hindered progress and professionalism within the football ecosystem in Malaysia.

When pointed out that presidents from troubled FAs occupied top positions in FAM, Izham said: “There is without doubt a structural issue. Perhaps the way forward is for FAM to be run by a professional team while representatives from the state FAs can be part of the board or play a more advisory role. That would ensure all limbs within FAM and even third party stakeholders work effectively.”

Izham was met after the pre-recording of BFM’s ‘Bar None‘ in Taman Tun Dr Ismail recently.

He had on the show spoke about the establishment of a dispute resolution chamber to resolve issues between teams and players and the setting up of a hardship fund.

While footballers are assured of assistance from PFAM, Izham believed they should also start investing in legal representatives and financial advisors to better safeguard their interests.

For more of Izham’s insights, tune in to ‘Bar None’ (89.9FM) tomorrow at 9pm.