MANILA, Philippines – The country's club football scene looks for a fresh start with the launch of the Philippine Premier League (PPL).
PPL commissioner Bernie Sumayao laid down his plans for the league that is targeted to start at the end of March 2019.
"The PPL is a new entity, it’s a rebirth, it's a reboot," said Sumayao in a press conference on Wednesday, January 23.
"We don’t have any political agenda, we don’t have any financial agenda. Our agenda is to be able to reach the same level as what we see around today – that means the other leagues around the region."
The league will be adapting a triple round-robin format where each leg will play 27 matches that will be in accordance with Asian Football Confederation (AFC) rules of having a club play minimum of 25 matches in a football leg to qualify for the AFC Cup.
PPL will also retain the Copa Paulino Alcantara where the teams will be divided into two groups and the finalists will face each other for a slot in the AFC Cup.
The 2019 football season is slated to end on December 7.
Eleven clubs have signified interest, but the target is to have 8 clubs participating for this year.
"We are still in the process of putting together all the documentation and by the 15th of February, we will be able to make the announcement on the final list," said Sumayao.
The teams will also be evaluated by their financial viability in order to sustain their operational expenses.
According to Sumayao, instead of a franchise scheme, teams will pay an annual registration fee that will be a fraction of the cost from the last two years.
The league is also alleviating additional costs for teams by doing away with the home-and-away format of the PFL.
Instead, the triple round-robin league will have matches played in 3 to 4 grounds in Metro Manila. The University of Makati, with a new artificial turf, will be one of the main venues.
But the league still intends to hold centralized matches in provinces, possibily in the third leg of the season.
"The centralized league, our idea is to have them sponsored. Someone can sponsor the hotels, the accommodations, so the financial burden is lesser for the teams," said Sumayao.
"Basically they (the teams) only have to pay for the players’ salaries if we go for the centralized games."
Creating the 'fan experience'
The PPL will be launching a series of activations as they will be prioritizing fan engagement for Philippine football.
"We want to increase fan engagement that is because the fans here – the long suffering fans of Philippine football – there are a lot of frustrations on their part," lamented Sumayao.
"So in my own way, I thought about making that commitment to see where we can bring it, what level we can bring it, and bring it the resources that we have in order for [this development to happen], so to ease the frustration among our fans."
In order to target the younger audiences, the PPL looks to partner with music companies to attract the fans to the football venue – a strategy that has been proven to work in certain markets.
The enforcement of centralized matches will also pave the way for the PPL to organize event activations in the provinces.
"For example, on our third leg, we will hold it in a province like Cebu or Iloilo then we’ll have an actual event there for a couple of weeks. All the matches will be played in that specific location and that will become a massive community that we’ll have concerts, we will have fairs, we will have activations, fan engagement, we have players meet and greet," explained Sumayao.
"All these ideas put together will create a highly festive event in a particular area. And that’s what we really need to encourage to get people engaged in football."
With football events being held across the Philippines, the PPL and the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) are looking to collaborate with local government units (LGUs) to boost the country's grassroots program.
Fans can also tune in to PPL games on 5 Plus where the games will be shown live every Saturday from 7 pm to 9 pm.
With a new team handling the efforts to grow Philippine club football, the long term goal is to establish a multi-tier football league system in the country. – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.