Monday, August 23, 2010
Looking at the numbers
For all the hype that has surrounded the Thai Premier League over the last season and a half it is sobering to bear in mind that much of the hoo haa has been generated by just a handful of clubs with deep pockets.
The deepest of course belong to Muang Thong United. Part owned by a media company and once known as Nong Jork they won promotion to the TPL last season and were champions at first time of asking.
Savvy marketing has kept them in the public eye and expansion of their stadium has seen numbers flocking to Muang Thong Thani, little more than a Basingstoke style new town out by the airport. Indeed, back in my day, adopts grumpy old man tone, the place was a building site barely visible from the airport tollway.
Chonburi were the first team to if you like go commercial and appearances in both the Singapore Cup and Asian Champions League brought the Sharks to a wider Asian audience who were more used to acronyms of bankers like KTB and TFB.
Now we have the 'new' face of Thai football in teams like Bangkok Glass and Buriram PEA. Bangkok Glass, based in Pathum Thani, is a company team albeit a company that seems to have deep pockets going by the investment at the club since they 'bought out' KTB and made girls with floppy ears and high heels a reason to go to football.
It wasn't that long ago that PEA, the sexily named Provincial Electrical Authority, won the Thai league. This year they were 'bought' by a politician to keep his electorate happy in Buriram near the Cambodian border. There was another team already in Buriram but you can't beat the profile of the TPL and a bunch of sparkies to open a pollie's pocket and that's what has happened with yesterday's game against Muang Thong United cramming almost 24,000 fans into the stadium.
But while the Big 4, god how corny but oh so easy, grab the headlines and the open wallets the rest of Thai football is just about getting by.
Samut Songkram, south west of Bangkok, attracted about 2,500 when they played title challengers Chonburi and you can be sure a large number of them were away fans.
The excitingly named Royal Thai Army, who play at the Army Stadium so kudos for branding, pulled 739 for their game with the equally attractive Osotsapa. My bar bill back in the day dwarfed their merchandise take!
TOT played Police United in what could almost be termed a greater Bangkok derby. Except of course who wants to see the phone company take on plod? All your branding and marketing can't disguise that fact. Just over 2,000 bothered, more people probably visited Nana Plaza that night.
Of the big 4 then, two are bank rolled by local politicians, one is corporate and one has serious funding from the private sector. The challenge is clear for the TPL. How to attract serious players to the game while keeping its integrity and of course wimmin with floppy ears and short, short denim shorts.
COMMENT - this story served little purpose other than to use a picture of the Glass Bunny