Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Petaling Jaya Rangers Break Corporate Mould In Malaysia
I've been meaning for some time to knock out a piece about the involvement of big business in Malaysian football and the amazing success those clubs have enjoyed, or not, in attracting a fan base from those supporters who do get excited about following a highway or a plantation company. However I am loathe to just write negative pieces about Malaysian football...easy though it is and recent events suggest at least one individual has taken on board the errors of the many in his own plans.
The 2016 Malaysia Premier League boasted two such clubs; Sime Darby, a plantation firm, and DRB HICOM, a firm with its hands in many pies like the automotive industry. The latter, by the way took over the license from Pos Malaysia, or the Post Office, who decided for a while they needed a football club to supplement their main job of delivering letters,
Sime Darby, no relation to experienced coach Steve Darby, were relegated and DRB HICOM have decided to knock football on the head after their short flirtation. There was actually one thing the Mighty Bees had going for them; playing their home games in Tanjung Malim. Surely here was an opportunity for a new club to tap into an area lacking its own big name team? Surely a Tanjung Malim FC to appeal? But nope, never happened.
Despite the best efforts of ex Persib coach Drago Matic the club ended last season with just two wins and now seem to be looking forward to a campaign in the FAM League.
The season before we had the wonderfully named PBAPP finishing last in the Premier League. This was the football team from the Penang Water Supply Corporation and as you can imagine they hardly pulled the punters. A conveniently round number of 100 people saw their local derby against Perlis but against island rivals Penang an impressive 8,000 turned out...I don't imagine there were many fans to cheer on the lads who kept their taps flowing!
Proton is another corporate backed club that flirted with the dizzy heights of Malaysia's second tier. This after they won the FAM League at their first attempt back in 2007. However they stalled higher up the pyramid and lasted a couple of seasons before deciding perhaps football was not for them after all and they'd better stick to making cars.
Going up a level and who can forget the mighty PLUS FC? These guys were part of the company that runs the toll road that runs along the spine of Malaysia and despite boasting such luminaries as Bobby Gonzales and Adrian Trinidad among their alumni they suffered from mid to lower table congestion during their football flirtation with the exception of 2008 when they managed to earn promotion to the top flight. Unlike their roads, especially in and around KL, their terraces remained empty as for some reason no one could entice a football loving public to get behind a toll road operator.
I could go on but life's too short Suffice to say not just companies but civil servants and universities have been seduced by the glamour of football enough to try their hand with varying degrees of failure. Kuala Muda NAZA, My Team, SPA, PPUSM etc etc All have one thing in common. An inability to make a lasting mark on football in a football daft country. And last season in the FAM League we saw Air Asia. No prizes for guessing who they are associated with.
But they have only gone and rebranded themselves ahead of the 2017 campaign as they seek perhaps to build on the branding they share with the club they sponsor in England, Queens Park Rangers. For a start they have changed their name to Petaling Jaya Rangers, a nod to their locale and a fan base they hope to tap into?
Targetting the Premier League in 2018, PJR (!) have appointed Mat Zan Mat Aris, deemed surplus to requirements by Melaka United after back to back promotions, who has brought with him a number of experienced old pros including Tuah Iskander and half a dozen players from Melaka. PJR will be working closely with QPR to develop an academy to source and develop new players.
It will be interesting to see how PJR develop themselves. Naming themselves after their manor is a smart move, they want to use the MBPJ Stadium (pictured left), basically a venue for hire by any nomadic club but home to no-one, and it would be nice to see them get out and about in their community to build up a fan base. And it would be nice if they were in it for the long haul.
Air Asia chief Tony Fernandes has shown a midas touch with his airline. Can he repeat that success with his football club?