Wednesday, March 06, 2019


Perseru Just The Latest Much Needed Consolidation

The football landscape has changed quite a bit over the years and while many of the headlines tend to be of a negative nature, football fans don't do soft, gooey love stories, some of the changes which have taken place are less heralded but necessary.
Much as we like to mock, organising an Indonesian football calendar is an arduous task. Even if all the clubs were well run the sheer distances involved, and the related costs (long flights, hotels, road transport) are considerations most leagues don't have to worry about. Indonesia is hit by a double whammy here; poor infrastructure and lack of funding.

Is it any wonder clubs from the far east have been hardest hit as I wrote about yesterday? Beyond Kalimantan only PSM and Persipura have been able to thrive in difficult circumstances.

We have to feel some sympathy for the PSSI. Really! They are not responsible for the poor roads, stadiums and flights to more remote destinations and they have had to tell clubs they can no longer rely on local government funding or tobacco sponsorship. Not all clubs have proved up to the challenge and rather than lead, the association have had to work around the clubs.

Looking back at the 2006 season is instructive. That is the year I started this here blog and back then clubs had access to taxpayer cash and the generosity of smokers. The top flight Liga Indonesia, sponsored by a tobacco company, was split into two conferences, west and east with 24 teams in total as we can see in the graphic above.

From that season only Arema, PSIS, Persija, Semen Padang, Persib, PSM, Persela and Persipura remain in the top flight. Some of slipped into Liga 3 anonymity while others are rarely heard of at all. Hardest hit has been the north east of Sulawesi where Persimin and Persibom along with Persma which boasted a decent cup run that year have faded into obscurity despite the potential fanbase in the region.

Fast forward to today and it is interesting to see how many 'new' clubs there are as a result of various acquisitions and mergers. Of the 18 teams which will be competing in the 2019 season fully one third didn't exist in their current format back in 2006;

Bali United go back to Putra Samarinda which merged with Persisam to become Persisam Putra
Bhayangkara's roots go back to an area close to Samarinda which I covered here.
Borneo originally were Perseba Super Bangkalan before Persisam supporters bought the license and relocated the club to Samarinda where they were initially known as Pusamania Borneo
Madura United originally started life as Pelita Jaya!
TIRA Persikabo started life as Persiram before being taken over by PS TNI and later merging with Persikabo
Perseru whose future name is uncertain following their move to Lampung.

In the lower divisions clubs like Persigo, Persih and Persires have their own tales of woe to tell as they joined the nomadic, a football licence in search of a home.

Professional football only started in the 1990s and then it was dominated by local association teams cobbled together by local political appointees. The idea that football clubs have a brand they can maximise has only recently been seized upon, Persib in many ways were the trailblazers while smaller clubs like Persela and Borneo work hard building support in their local communities.

Traditionally it has been left to fans and supporters clubs to create awareness and build support and political types have been happy to sit back and allow this to happen and it is this laissez-faire attitude which PSS fans are currently railing against.

It is no longer enough for a football club to be a politicians play thing for a year or two then to be dropped. They need to find money themselves and if they can't then clubs will fold which is what we are seeing. It's nothing new by the way. Look up clubs like The Wanderers in England, Third Lanark in Scotland or Germany's VfB Leipzig.

Strong clubs need strong brands and without doubt Indonesia boasts four of the strongest in South East Asia in Arema, Persib, Persija and Persebaya. Whether the likes of Bali United or Madura United will have the financial staying power to take on the big four, as Sriwijaya did for a few years, remains to be seen as indeed the future of the Lampung based club which will be taking part in the new season.

For now, I guess we're left wondering which will be the next familiar name to go!

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