Lessons for Malaysian football from Mara Corp and Perak MB dramas

On Dec 3, I wrote about the suspension of Mara Corporation (Corp) Sdn Bhd’s group chief executive officer Datuk Badlisyah Abdul Ghani who had only served for three months.

Mara Corp has yet to issue an official statement regarding Badlisyah’s “garden leave” but it is understood he was asked to leave at a time when he intended to carry out an internal audit.

Former Labuan MP Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman, who is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia Labuan chief, was appointed Mara Corp executive director and chairman of the executive committee board for two years beginning Dec 1, 2020 – pending approval from the Mara Council and Mara Crop board of directors.

The next day, Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu lost a vote of confidence in the state assembly, leading to the fall of the Perak government.

What do Mara Corp and the Perak government “crises” have to do with football?

A lot.

Football enthusiasts ponder on Faizal’s status as Perak FA president. Here’s the problem – menteris besar or those in power in the state or federal government often helm sports associations, especially in football.

When they are ousted or quit, the association is also affected.

Why are they even there in the first place? Because they are the cash cows.

Appointing them in key positions will guarantee some form of funding from the state or federal government’s coffers.

Despite the financial security, most states have ignored the grassroots and prefer to splurge their investments on the senior squads. So much money is spent in the hope of getting quick results. The long-term vision is non-existent.

The Malaysian political landscape has changed dramatically since 2018. It is common now that politicians are replaced before they have even warmed their seats. Even Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is feeling the heat due to his wafer-thin majority as political parties gear up for a possible general election soon.

The FA of Malaysia’s call to get teams under a privatisation scheme to compete in the 2021 Super and Premier Leagues is a good excuse to give politicians the boot.

However, it can only work if the management is free of political appointees and politician wannabes. For teams to truly move forward, they need to employ professionals – without attachments or baggage – who are able to monetise their teams.

Mara Corp’s latest drama is a classic example. A football team cannot have a CEO running the show for three months only to be asked to go on “garden leave”. The board members must be free of political alliances.

Any business entity cannot progress if the tenure of its key decision-makers is cut short due to ego, personality or political clashes.

The guardians of football should realise by now that it is the politicians who need football and not the other way around. Now is the best time for teams competing in the M-League – professional or amateur – to start afresh.

Show the politicians the red card and don’t let them anywhere near the game. Start the ball rolling by getting in professionals.