The Emperor’s New Clothes: Thai Football Stares into the Abyss
In the red corner Worawi, Tyson like, determines to pulverise anyone daring to step into his ring, whilst the blue corner sees Sugar Ray Newin aim to out fox, then out box, his complacent opponent. The fight may entertain, but the damage done goes far beyond the canvas square.
Fans are happy to look away as twenty bus loads of SCG employees, many of them unfamiliar with football, are required to be MT TV wallpaper. The early history of the erstwhile Buriram PEA lead to Champions League football, so let’s leave that in the past and Thai Port players not being paid for four months was the growing pains of a young league. But the Newin / Worawi face off forces us to face our demons. Thai Port fans crouching down to paint their grandstand last week will ask where the 135 million Baht from Truesport and NBT went last season. Away fans at the SCG after a contentious decision will question what power the club (whose owners essentially ran the league through Siam Sport) has in other areas of the game. And so the levee breaks.
Newin’s determination, through his “Thai Premier League Club Allies,” to create a model more like the English FA, where all 18 clubs are shareholders in the TPL should create more transparency and parity. The elephant in the room is Politics. The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend, an emotion with a deep undertow in the fractured, divisive world of Thai politics. However noble the idea, the suspicion nags that it was hijacked for party gain, subverted as another vote buying exercise by politicos determined to cement their power base. Throwing politicians out of football is an attractive option, but they have the deepest pockets and the strongest influence. Their friends controlling multinational businesses sponsor the league as a back scratching exercise to ensure future favourable political winds for their business ventures. The Nation used the phrase, “written by hand, erased by foot.” It goes deeper than that:
” He who pays the piper, plays the tune.”
The desolate scenarios of boom or bust are too simplistic. Too many Powerful People have too much to lose. A breakaway league would cleanse by fire, laying waste to everything before starting again. The AFC will again boot out Thai clubs, politicians will disappear and beautiful people will leave the game in droves, allowing the fans to reboot the league away from the glare of self serving interests. This may look like monastic flagellation, but the TPL castle is built on foundations of sand. Instead of continuing to build, it needs demolishing before powerful footings are driven in, out of the glare of baby kissing arrivistes.
As divorce lawyers say, the union is not finished while couples continue to fight; it’s when they stop scrapping that the real end arrives. Let’s hope that’s not the case for Thai football.