Kuala Lumpur City FC doesn’t need patron, but someone who has faith in team

Dr Zaliha Mustafa was, last week, named Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, overseeing the Federal Territories following a Cabinet reshuffle.

The Federal Territories Ministry was turned into a department under the Prime Minister’s Office when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim assumed the top post in Putrajaya following the 15th General Election in November, last year.

In June, then Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil was named Kuala Lumpur City FC patron, taking over from Arau MP, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim.

Despite the change in guard and the pockets of success since 2021, the city outfit continues to be plagued by financial woes.

Despite being a small team, KL City FC won the Malaysia Cup in 2021, a silverware the team last won in 1989. It was runner-up in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup in 2022, and played bridesmaid in the FA Cup final this year.

In the Super League, KL City was placed sixth out of 12 teams in 2021, and retained the same position a year later. In the just-concluded Super League season, the team was placed seventh out of 14 teams in the standings.

So, does having a minister as a patron truly help?

The same question was posed to the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) in 2020. This writer then wrote: “As sports has progressed, and with BAM adopting a business-like culture, perhaps it’s best that it forgo the need for a patron. This would also mean ditching the protocols and ‘demands’ that come with the patronage. Otherwise, it could offer it to someone who can bring in RM1 million, if not more, to the association.”

A strong football culture has ensured that the city outfit, despite its small budget, remains a main player in the league. But that itself is insufficient.

Stanley Bernard, a former Kuala Lumpur footballer who is now the chief executive officer of KL City FC, said the football culture was “bulletproof” to the ever-changing political landscape in the country since 2018.

“But what we truly need now is an investor who has faith in the team,” said Bernard.

What KL City FC truly needs are those who understand the power of sports, football specifically, and how to best leverage it. The team needs more than a patron – it needs a believer who has faith in the team and what it is capable of achieving. If done right, and sincerely, football can change the hearts and minds of many. A winning formula will result in loyal fans – evident during Kelantan’s glory days a decade ago, or the ride currently enjoyed by Johor Darul Ta’zim.

The team’s administrators and fans argue why major corporations shy away from the city side, and instead, invest in clubs abroad. But they also need to understand that pumping money elsewhere isn’t just about football. It is about creating a wider network of possibilities. The wider networking is pretty much absent in the stands of Malaysian stadiums.

But despite the sport languishing at the elite level – from professional teams struggling to pay players’ wages on time, to inconsistent performances over the decades at the Southeast Asian Games, the sport somewhat enjoys a strong legion of fans.

It’s a pity that the city team continues to be plagued by financial difficulties. Despite having a string of politicians as patrons, it remains in the same rut.

Football is no easy business. KL City FC needs professionals, instead of politicians, to ensure it can sustain itself ahead of the new season, next year.

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