Let the Games Begin
Notwithstanding a stumbling block from PSSI, the Indonesian Premier League kicked off as an alternative competition that is more professional and independent.
IN that room, time was expected not to fly too quickly. A week ahead of the great event, activities in the 40-square-meter office in the Medco building, South Jakarta, became increasingly intense. At the Indonesian Premier League (LPI) head office, Meiriyon Moeis was busy phoning around. Moeis, the CEO of PT Batavia Jakarta Footballindo, looked discontent. “I’m still trying to lobby the stadium or find another alternative,” he said, on Tuesday afternoon last week. The administrator of the soccer field in the Brodjosoemantri area, Kuningan, Jakarta, as the first option, had not given a permit to hire the stadium even though the schedule for the home match of the club managed by his company, Batavia Union FC, was only a week away.
Liano Mahardhika, the CEO of PT Pengelola Persebaya, was seriously monitoring his laptop’s screen and occasionally making phone calls. He was making sure that there would be no problem with the process for foreign players’ recruitment contracts. “This is the first year, so it must be hard because of the transformation,” he said.
Wisma Jenggala, South Jakarta, where businessman Arifin Panigoro lives, was also filled with activities. On Tuesday afternoon last week, the initiators of LPI discussed the preparations and the latest developments. The preparations for the league event, opened at Solo’s Manahan Stadium on Saturday last week, had largely been taken care of, including the acquisition of permits. “There’s no reason for us not to allow the LPI. We’ve decided to permit it,” said Insp. Gen. (ret) Gordon Mogot, General Chairman of the Indonesian Professional Sports Board (BOPI), on Thursday last week.
Initially, it was thought that the permit for LPI—regarded as a rival of the Indonesian Super League (LSI) which is managed by the All-Indonesia Football Federation (PSSI)—would be produced by PSSI. The imbroglio was unraveled following a meeting at the Ministry for Sports and Youth Affairs office from Wednesday night until Thursday morning last week to discuss the issue of regulations.
Minister Andi Mallarangeng stated the party that has the right to allow professional sports events is BOPI, not PSSI. BOPI was established based on the 2009 Ministerial Decree. “Regarding the dispute, the one having the authorization is BOPI,” said Andi. Even the police, according to chief of the Intelligence and Security Division at the National Police Headquarters, Comr. Gen. Wahyono, should provide security for the massive event.
PSSI did make attempts to halt LPI by, for example, sending warnings to various parties such as the players, referee, agents and clubs, and even filing a police report against LPI. “The clubs quitting LSI will suffer sanctions,” warned PSSI Secretary-General Nugraha Besoes. According to PSSI, LPI violates Law No. 3 on the National Sports System because there is no partnership with any existing formal organizations.
Arya Abhiseka, General Manager of PT Liga Primer Indonesia, bemoaned the entire opposition. Regarding the permission, for instance, on Tuesday morning last week, Police Criminal Investigation Division Chief, Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi had given a green light. Later in the afternoon however, Chief of Police Public Relations Division, Insp. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam affirmed that the police would give their permission following permission from PSSI as the main football organization.
Indeed, LPI cannot be judged merely from the viewpoint of the matches. LPI constitutes one of the Indonesian soccer reforms agendas taking place since the late 2009, until the holding of the National Football Congress in Malang late in March 2010. One of the congress recommendations was the holding of independent and professional competitions in addition to efforts to improve the football federation and the cultivation of players at an early age. “The principle is, football must not only use up the State Budget while its achievements continue declining,” stated Arifin Panigoro when declaring the establishment of LPI in Semarang in October last year.
LPI is operated with an industrial approach, instead of an association which solicits financial contributions from the government. There are calculations of investment, sales, loss and profit, profit sharing, shares, and financial accountability. It is managed by PT Liga Primer Indonesia consortium along with clubs in various regions as subsidiary companies which receive an initial fund of around Rp15-40 billion.
The total funds allocated amount to Rp1 trillion. “The investment return is predicted to come in about seven years,” said Arya. It might be obtained from broadcasting rights, merchandise, sponsors, and player transfers. The proceeds are to be divided among the clubs and the shareholders. For implementation of matches, the consortium allocates only Rp3-5 billion. Thereafter, when already running smoothly, the clubs would assume responsibility for holding the league matches.
It is certainly difficult to introduce the football concept in business calculations. The initiators must go around the regions visiting local soccer stakeholders such as the regional governments, PSSI executives, businessmen, and clubs. “It takes six to seven visits to convince just one club,” said Arya. Initially 15 clubs voiced participation. Now 19 clubs have joined LPI.
A letter has been sent to FIFA as the international football federation. However, FIFA’s recognition will depend on the decision of the respective countries’ national soccer associations. So, since PSSI has not given its approval, the consequence is clear, that is, the LPI winning team will not have a chance of representing Indonesia in international inter-club leagues. “That is the worst option,” said Arya.
As for foreign referees and players, so far the LPI clubs have not experienced legal obstacles. “Just like a business company hires a foreign consultant,” said Akmal Marhali, CEO of PT Tangerang United Indonesia under which the Tangerang Wolves club operates.
Tangerang Wolves has recruited five foreign players from Brazil and South Korea, and—something they take pride in—a coach from Brazil, Paulo Camargo. “He was the one who discovered Kaka,” he said, mentioning the Brazilian football ace. Paulo is expected to find other Kakas in Tangerang. Tangerang Wolves also explores possible sister club cooperation with the Brazilian club Sao Paulo. “Our kids will participate in training over there,” said Akmal.
LPI is indeed expected to trigger a breakthrough for the advancement of soccer. “This is a reaction from stagnation,” said Indonesian football observer Tondo Widodo. Not only in Indonesia, such breakthroughs have also been made in countries with progressive football leagues, such as, for example, the English Premier League (1992), the Scottish Premier League (1998), and the Italian Serie A (2010).
FIFA does not prohibit ‘rival’ competitions. “They don’t get into state’s internal affairs,” explained Tondo. The legal status of a foreign player and a referee has more to do with the formal regulations of a state in regard to the permit for foreign workers. “Immigration, guaranteed arrival, and temporary stay permit,” he said.
Observing other countries, the existence of LPI resembles Australia’s soccer reforms that happened in 2002, known as the Australian Breakaway League and the Crawford Report. The cause is the poor performance of the Australian Soccer Association (ASA) and the prevalence of corruption. ASA President Nick Greiner was considered to have failed in his 30-year endeavor to develop Australian football, resulting in its failure to make it to the 2002 World Cup.
The Australian football community became upset and sent a letter to Senator Rod Kemp, Australia’s Federal Minister for Arts and Sport, recommending an improvement by modern and professional approach. The letter dubbed the Crawford Report was published by the sports ministry and was later worked out by the Soccer Independent Review Committee. The next agenda was a large-scale management overhaul, quality competitions as well as basic soccer cultivation. As a result, the football industry rebounded and the national team of the land of kangaroos made it to the World Cup.
Harun Mahbub, Tito Sianipar, Yophiandi