Saturday, March 17, 2012
The Future's Bright, The Future's Persib
Persib Bandung are one of arguably four Indonesian football clubs, (Persija Jakarta, Arema Malang and Persebaya Surabaya are the others) with the potential to become a brand that extends beyong the country’s own borders.
They are already a massive club at home and indeed West Java is blue to such an extent that few other teams thrive in the province. From Cirebon on the border with Central Java to the coastal resort town of Pelabuhan Ratu and all points inbetween walls are covered in graffiti extolling ‘their’ football club. Persib, 1933, Bobotoh, Maung Bandung, Vikings are sprayed everywhere, clothes lines will usually feature the famous club crest somewhere.
As a football club, Persib have been starved of success for way too long. Their last domestic success was back in 1995 but it doesn’t matter. Every home game the narrow street leading to the Jalak Harapat Stadium in Soreang is filled to overflowing with a steady blue heading heading to the game, while coming back the journey to the centre of Bandung can take hours.
The traffic though isn’t a deterrent to the blue hoards. Persib fans call themselves Bobotoh, a Sundanese word meaning ‘one who encourages’ while the largest supporters club are the Vikings who have a small club shop just round the corner from the Siliwangi Stadium in central Bandung.
With professional football clubs no longer permitted to use funds from local governments to fund their campaigns, they have been forced to look elsewhere and Persib, with their massive supporter base, have been one of the more successful. Advertising boards round the pitch have long been a source of income for football clubs in other countries but a reliance on the taxpayer meant it has been under utilized here. Persib however have more than most for their home games and similarly they have foud a few sponsors to advertise on the club shirts.
And again this is an area where Indonesian clubs have been slow to enter. Traditionally it has been state owned enterprises or the local provincial bank that have been talked into putting their names to their local clubs; better known companies in the private sector have stayed away, perhaps not to impressed with the image the game has from top to bottom.
Persib are slowly changing that perception with several sponsors listed on their official website. And again very few clubs bother with their own website, preferring to let fans keep in touch by word of mouth. There is also an attached on line store where the supporters can buy official replica gear, t shirts and so on. The club also have a café, called Persib Café, in Bandung!
Persib’s next step to achieving financial independence is to offer shares in the club to the public be they institutional investors or fans longing to have a piece of their beloved Persib hanging on the bedroom wall.
While Persib set about securing their status as one of the biggest teams in Indonesia are they able to translate into international success? Some of the more forward thinking Thai teams have mumbled about becoming big clubs in the reason but to be fair they lack the traditions necessary. Muang Thong United’s name change during the pre season to accomade a new share holder won’t stir the passions; is it a football club or a cement company while Buriram whatever their name is this year is just small town miles from anywhere operating at the whim of the local landlord.
Neither bring what Persib can to the table. Passion and history. Bandung also has another couple of feathers in their hat. The city is increasingly being connected to the rest of south east Asia thanks to budget airlines flying in from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur which offer people the chance of low cost breaks, shopping plus perhaps some football over a weekend.
The recent signing of Noh Alam Shah can only increase the recognition of Persib in Singapore.
The other advantage Persib have is the Indonesian diaspora round the region, especially studying and working in Malaysia. An estimated 17,000 Indonesians attended the ASEAN Cup Final in KL back in 2010 and most of those weren’t flying in from Jakarta or Medan or Surabaya. Persib have long realized this and have frequently played games against Malaysian opposition both in Indonesia and in Malaysia.
A shared culture and language suggests that Persib will have an easier time connecting with fans in Malaysia than Thai teams would.
Persib’s potential is limited only by the vision of the people who run the club and the league in Indonesia. But they are surely better placed than most clubs to tap into South East Asia’s insatiable appetite for football.
although I'm a Jakmania, I really think that Persija should learn something from Persib,, especially on 'how to run the business'..
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