Page last updated at 11:29 Asia/Manila, Tuesday, 07 February 2017 PH
The year 2017 will be remembered by posterity as the beginning of the Philippines Football League. On February 9, 2 to 4 p.m., there will be a gathering at the Amici Restaurant at the Megamall in Ortigas of some of the actual or potential supporters of the beautiful game in the Philippines. They will be attending a historic event that will combine the launching of a book on the History of Football in the Philippines and the official announcement of the start of the Philippines Football League in March or April of 2017. I have been following closely the major football events globally, regionally and domestically over at least the last eight years. It is well known that through the accomplishments, though still limited, of the national football team—the AZKALS—there has been heightened interest and awareness of this most famous sport in the world among the local population, including children as young as four years old. At all social levels, from the gated subdivisions and exclusive private schools to street children in the depressed areas of urban centers, football is gaining ground and has become an alternative to basketball among many young people, both male and female. This spreading interest in football has also encouraged business enterprises as well as nongovernmental organizations to give greater financial and marketing support to this fledgling sport. Even embassies such as those of Argentina, Germany, the United Kingdom, Timor Este, Spain, Chile, Brazil and a few others have been generous in their support in developing interest and skills, especially among children coming from the lower social classes. In a recent version of the Ambassadors Cup that was sponsored by the Argentinian Ambassador, Roberto Bosch, I saw street children who can be our future Pele, Maradona, Neymar or Cristiano Ronaldo if we all pool our efforts to develop this game.
People in business are also more aware of the commercial benefits of the sport in countries where football is big business. For example, huge amounts of Chinese capital are being invested in European football clubs such as those in the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy. Chinese companies like Evergrande Real Estate in the Guangzhou region are spending billions of dollars in putting up hundreds of football pitches and training hundreds of thousands of young players to help achieve the goal of Chinese President Xi Jinping of reaching the World Cup finals any time soon. In 2016, money poured into football in the form of astronomical salaries for some of the stars, such as Paul Pogba whose transfer to Manchester United at 101 million pounds set a world record. But even Pogba has got a long way to catch up with Balon d’Or winners like Lionel Messi or his rival Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s highest paid athlete at $1.7 million a week in salary and endorsements. These salaries are made possible by the explosion in the amounts paid for TV and broadcast rights.
Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson told the Daily Mail that once the 8.3 billion pounds domestic TV deal covering 2016 to 2019 was signed between the Premier League and Sky Sports and BT Sport, transfer values and salaries were expected to rise. And rise they did. Premier League clubs spent 1.38 billion euros during the 2016 summer transfer market window, 34% up on the previous year. The global media is following very closely the British lead. In China, the biggest deal to date was signed in November 2016 with Chinese video streaming service PPTV for 600 million euros. Elsewhere in Europe, the German Bundesliga cashed in with a TV deal worth 3.4 billion euros over the next three years, a near 40% jump on the past year. These figures show that in developed countries that are not growing robustly anymore, the exception is sport and entertainment, especially football in the vast majority of them. The same can be said of basketball in the U.S. and Formula One in many countries.
Of course, it will be a long while before the Philippine football scene will experience similar commercial figures. As the economy is projected to grow at 8 per cent or more in GDP over the next decades or so, there will be a rapid increase in the middle class and the consequent explosion in expenditures on sports and entertainment. It would be wise for Philippine consumer-oriented companies to bet as early as possible on football as a means of enhancing their brand images or the marketing of their products or services in general, following the example of such global brands as Nike, Adidas, Qatar Airlines, Coca-Cola, BBVA Bank, etc. The briefing scheduled for February 9, 2017 at 2 to 4 p.m. at the Amici Restaurant at Megamall, Ortigas, will familiarize people in business and nongovernmental organizations with all the information about football in the Philippines and more especially, its future development under the auspices of the Philippine Football Federation in collaboration with the private sector. Among other vital information business people will get will be the list of the football clubs that will be pioneers in the League. As of now, I know that the following cities will be represented by their respective football clubs: Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Taguig, Binan, and Makati. There could be more. Business firms can already decide whom to support in the same way that Emirates advertises through Real Madrid or Qatar Airlines through FC Barcelona.
The forthcoming event will be an occasion to celebrate the history of football in the Philippines through the launching of a book I co-authored with some of the leading sports journalists of this country as well as to be enlightened on a road map for the beautiful game to be presented by top officials of the Philippine Football Federation. I hope that those who will attend the briefing will become co-founders of the Philippines Football League that one day will be an instrument for producing some world-class Filipino football players as well as contributing to a viable industry in the entertainment world. Needless to say, as an educator, I am also banking on football as a vehicle for values and virtues formation among the youth and a channel for peace among the various regional and ethnic groups of the Philippine Archipelago. Those interested in attending the event may get in touch with Mr. Martin Badoy at email firstname.lastname@example.org or tel. 637-0912 loc. 350. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.