I REMEMBER two years ago, while visiting the MBPJ Stadium for a match between Negri Sembilan FA and PKNS FC in the Malaysia Cup, something struck my mind.
Being a Negri fan, I was one of the away fans.
On that day, the stadium was, as usual, more than half empty. Of the seats that were filled, most were my fellow Negri fans, who arrived in decent numbers. This begged a question: Where were the home fans?
Wait. Were there any home fans at all in the first place? Should there be?
Who would support PKNS FC? Those people working in the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS), or people who live near the stadium, or people living in Kelana Jaya, or people who live in Petaling Jaya since they play in the MBPJ Stadium, or anyone at all?
Besides, wouldn't those who work in PKNS support the state team of their origin rather than this team? Who would support PKNS FC when there is Selangor in the same league?
I personally bet that it was a noble idea initially. Selangor being the most populous state in Malaysia, it would make sense to have more teams based in Selangor to maximise exposure. Or, is that ever the agenda?
In 2004, when the Australian A-league, the top professional football league in Australia, was formed, the club that was allocated for the state of Queensland was called Queensland Roar FC. However, after several years, the A-league decided to expand the league from eight clubs to 10 in 2008 by allocating two more clubs in the state of Queensland.
They were North Queensland Fury FC, which was based in the city of Townsville (in the northern part of Queensland); and Gold Coast United FC, which was based in Gold Coast, Queensland.
And then, the A-league decided to change the name of the Queensland Roar FC to Brisbane Roar FC, with Brisbane being the capital of the state. By doing so, all three clubs would have their own fan base, their own geographical monopolisations, and a clearer sense of identities.
As we are now closing in on a new broadcasting deal for our professional football leagues, maybe it is time for FAM to think about how to fully maximise Selangor’s monstrous population and interest in football.
Maybe, instead of one team that represents the entire Selangor state, we should have several new professional football clubs that represent smaller geographical areas, like “Shah Alam FC”, playing against “Klang United”. They could even have a Petaling District derby the following week with “PJ Rangers”. How great would that be!
To reinforce this idea, look at the population of these three cities: Both Shah Alam and PJ have more than 600,000 people respectively, and Klang has more than 700,000 people. Surely we can utilise the gigantic population in these cities. Try and imagine the potential FAM can tap into in terms of exposure!
As written by Lucius Maximus in his book Cerita Malaysia Tidak Ke Piala Dunia (2011), some traditionalist Selangor FA fans might argue the fact that this team had existed for more than 70 years, and it should not be discontinued just like that. I would agree, because such disrespect towards tradition would be absolutely disgraceful. What we can do, in my opinion, is perhaps what the A-league did.
Like Queensland Roar FC, since they were the first-comers, they were re-based onto the capital of the state, Brisbane, when the expansion happened. And in Selangor’s case, it would be Shah Alam. And, as Maximus also suggested, the list of trophies, wins and honours won in the past would also be inherited by this new club. That way, tradition (or part of it, at least) and honours would be kept, and yet the potential of that population could be maximised.
As for the other clubs like PKNS FC or Felda United (which has had three home grounds from three different states in the past few years), they can perhaps add a name of a geographical area that they would represent. This would give them an actual fan base, and an actual sense of identity.
By doing so, in my opinion, it would arguably enable FAM to fully maximise the potential of our most populous state. The same should be done for the other states like Terengganu and Johor.
Apart from that, state FAs can also allow the professional clubs to run independently as they no longer represent them. And if the state FAs can allow professional clubs to run independently, they can then concentrate on the development of the sport in their respective states rather than the professional teams, such as grassroots programmes, coaching and refereeing clinics, amateur leagues for the non-elite (which is severely lacking in our country), etc.