We’re in for the long haul with KL City, says Rinani Group director Azri Azerai

Azri Azerai is confident Rinani Group will complete its acquisition of Kuala Lumpur City FC before the season begins on Feb 25.

Rinani Group director Azri Azerai is confident of completing the acquisition of Kuala Lumpur City Football Club from Kuala Lumpur FA (KLFA) before the Malaysian League season kicks off on Feb 24.

Azri and KLFA president Khalid Abdul Samad signed a ‘Term Sheet’ on Feb 4. Rinani also deposited RM1 million into KLFA’s account to help pay the players’ December salary.

Azri shares with Twentytwo13 how he plans to turn Kuala Lumpur City into one of the strongest teams in the country.

Why Kuala Lumpur City FC?

Azri Azerai (AA): KL City FC boasts the name of Malaysia’s capital – Kuala Lumpur. The club has an extraordinary track record with a rich history. It won the 100th Malaysia Cup tournament in 2021 – the fourth time it has won the trophy. Last year, it was runner-up in the AFC Cup. Earlier this month, it won the Federal Territory Minister’s Trophy for the second time in three years by beating Perak 3-0.

Many Malaysian clubs struggle to pay players on time. So, why invest in football?

AA: Anyone who has ever been to a sporting event will understand the passion on the ground. In Malaysian football, we have seen how fans support their teams wholeheartedly. It does not matter if the team wins or not. The atmosphere is electric, and I hope to draw inspiration from it.

How do you intend to handle any debt the club might have?

AA: We will announce that once we complete the acquisition. For now, our concern is in securing income through sponsorships, advertising, and partnerships.

Do you have any experience investing in a football, or other sports club?

AA: No, but I have a keen interest in sports. While my experience is minimal, I have the support of a committed management team capable of bringing the club to the next level.

What I bring to the table is my corporate experience, which I hope can also bring value into the management and finances of the club.

How do you intend to interact with the current club administration and personnel?

AA: We intend to be hands-on but also open to suggestions from the administration and the team.

What changes, if any, are you contemplating?

AA: Football decisions will be core to any changes we make. Our priorities are to ensure that the training facilities are up to standard while reassuring the coaches and players that we are on the right track and focusing on the performance on the pitch.

We want to build a solid team with a core of star players, and at the same time, nurture the younger ones. We are fortunate that the stadium is in good condition, as it underwent renovation several years ago.

Can you provide details of the board members and key personnel?

AA: We will announce that when the acquisition has been completed.

How do you intend to guarantee KL City’s long-term stability?

AA: The game will be central to all decisions we make. The game consists of the club, the facilities, team management, finance, fans, and other stakeholders.

A winning mentality is important as this will attract interest and support. As for the finances, we are looking at partnerships with the private sector. This is where Rinani comes in, as we can leverage our network.

What is your vision for KL City in the short, and long term?

AA: Firstly, I believe privatising football clubs is the right direction for the ecosystem, as a whole. What excites me the most is that this is at its infancy.

We have some ideas in the pipeline. We will have a trial period until we get it right, for the club to have the opportunity to earn revenue. For example, a KL City bespoke sim card.

I am here for the long run, looking at the next 10, 15, 20, and 30 years, to empower the club, add value, and to integrate our expertise into the football club.

On the technical side, as a club, it is crucial that we secure a training ground that we can call home.

We are also developing community initiatives, centred around the club and at our home stadium, as we did during the Federal Territory Minister’s Trophy, with RM1 tickets and a free sim card.

What are your plans for youth development and grassroots programmes?

AA: Nurturing local talent is our number one priority. We have great coaches who can spot players’ strengths, and scout for potential talent.

We want sports to be a viable career. It is not just about the players. A robust industry has grown alongside the sport, and is worth billions.

We want to look at nurturing local youth holistically, as their development off-pitch is just as important. We hope to attract more young people to football with professional management and sound financing.

What are the initiatives to improve the club on and off the field?

AA: Discipline is key to improvement. We want to improve the players on the pitch but also ensure that we can develop them off the field.

The club should be the rallying point for all stakeholders. I believe that as long as everyone, including the players, is committed, we will surely be able to move forward into a brighter future.