Philip­pine busi­ness should sup­port foot­ball

Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features - By DR. BERNARDO M. VILLEGAS For com­ments, my email ad­dress is

THE year 2017 will be re­mem­bered by pos­ter­ity as the be­gin­ning of the Philip­pines Foot­ball League. On Fe­bru­ary 9, 2 to 4 p.m., there will be a gath­er­ing at the Amici Restau­rant at the Mega­mall in Or­ti­gas of some of the ac­tual or po­ten­tial sup­port­ers of the beau­ti­ful game in the Philip­pines. They will be at­tend­ing a his­toric event that will com­bine the launch­ing of a book on the His­tory of Foot­ball in the Philip­pines and the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment of the start of the Philip­pines Foot­ball League in March or April of 2017.

I have been fol­low­ing closely the ma­jor foot­ball events glob­ally, re­gion­ally, and do­mes­ti­cally over at least the last eight years. It is well known that through the ac­com­plish­ments, though still lim­ited, of the na­tional foot­ball team — the Azkals — there has been height­ened in­ter­est and aware­ness of this most fa­mous sport in the world among the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, in­clud­ing chil­dren as young as four years old. At all so­cial lev­els, from the gated sub­di­vi­sions and ex­clu­sive pri­vate schools to street chil­dren in the de­pressed ar­eas of ur­ban cen­ters, foot­ball is gain­ing ground and has be­come an al­ter­na­tive to bas­ket­ball among many young peo­ple, both male and fe­male.

This spread­ing in­ter­est in foot­ball has also en­cour­aged busi­ness en­ter­prises as well as non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions to give greater fi­nan­cial and mar­ket­ing sup­port to this fledg­ling sport. Even em­bassies such as those of Ar­gentina, Ger­many, the United King­dom, Ti­mor Este, Spain, Chile, Brazil, and a few oth­ers have been gen­er­ous in their sup­port in de­vel­op­ing in­ter­est and skills, es­pe­cially among chil­dren com­ing from the lower so­cial classes. In a re­cent ver­sion of the Am­bas­sadors Cup that was spon­sored by the Ar­gen­tinian Am­bas­sador, Roberto Bosch, I saw street chil­dren who can be our fu­ture Pele, Maradona, Ney­mar, or Cris­tiano Ron­aldo if we all pool our ef­forts to de­velop this game.

Peo­ple in busi­ness are also more aware of the com­mer­cial ben­e­fits of the sport in coun­tries where foot­ball is big busi­ness. For ex­am­ple, huge amounts of Chi­nese cap­i­tal are be­ing in­vested in Euro­pean foot­ball clubs such as those in the United King­dom, Spain, and Italy. Chi­nese com­pa­nies like Ever­grande Real Es­tate in the Guangzhou re­gion are spend­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in putting up hun­dreds of foot­ball pitches and train­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of young play­ers to help achieve the goal of Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping of reach­ing the World Cup fi­nals any time soon. In 2016, money poured into foot­ball in the form of as­tro­nom­i­cal salaries for some of the stars, such as Paul Pogba whose trans­fer to Manch­ester United at 101 mil­lion pounds set a world record. But even Pogba has got a long way to catch up with Balon d’Or win­ners like Lionel Messi or his ri­val Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, the world’s high­est paid ath­lete at $1.7 mil­lion a week in salary and en­dorse­ments. These salaries are made pos­si­ble by the ex­plo­sion in the amounts paid for TV and broad­cast rights.

For­mer Manch­ester United man­ager Alex Fer­gu­son told the Daily Mail that once the 8.3 bil­lion pounds do­mes­tic TV deal cov­er­ing 2016 to 2019 was signed be­tween the Pre­mier League and Sky Sports and BT Sport, trans­fer val­ues and salaries were ex­pected to rise. And rise they did. Pre­mier League clubs spent 1.38 bil­lion eu­ros dur­ing the 2016 sum­mer trans­fer mar­ket win­dow, 34% up on the pre­vi­ous year. The global me­dia is fol­low­ing very closely the Bri­tish lead. In China, the big­gest deal to date was signed in Novem­ber, 2016, with Chi­nese video stream­ing ser­vice PPTV for 600 mil­lion eu­ros. Else­where in Europe, the Ger­man Bun­desliga cashed in with a TV deal worth 3.4 bil­lion eu­ros over the next three years, a near 40% jump on the past year. These fig­ures show that in de­vel­oped coun­tries that are not grow­ing ro­bustly any­more, the ex­cep­tion is sport and en­ter­tain­ment, es­pe­cially foot­ball in the vast ma­jor­ity of them. The same can be said of bas­ket­ball in the US and For­mula One in many coun­tries.

Of course, it will be a long while be­fore the Philip­pine foot­ball scene will ex­pe­ri­ence sim­i­lar com­mer­cial fig­ures. As the econ­omy is pro­jected to grow at 8 per­cent or more in GDP over the next decades or so, there will be a rapid in­crease in the mid­dle class and the con­se­quent ex­plo­sion in ex­pen­di­tures on sports and en­ter­tain­ment. It would be wise for Philip­pine con­sumer-ori­ented com­pa­nies to bet as early as pos­si­ble on foot­ball as a means of en­hanc­ing their brand im­ages or the mar­ket­ing of their prod­ucts or ser­vices in gen­eral, fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of such global brands as Nike, Adi­das, Qatar Air­lines, Co­caCola, BBVA Bank, etc.

The brief­ing sched­uled for Fe­bru­ary 9, 2017, at 2 to 4 p.m. at the Amici Restau­rant at Mega­mall, Or­ti­gas, will fa­mil­iar­ize peo­ple in busi­ness and non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions with all the in­for­ma­tion about foot­ball in the Philip­pines and more es­pe­cially, its fu­ture devel­op­ment un­der the aus­pices of the Philip­pine Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the pri­vate sec­tor. Among other vi­tal in­for­ma­tion busi­ness peo­ple will get will be the list of the foot­ball clubs that will be pi­o­neers in the league. As of now, I know that the fol­low­ing cities will be rep­re­sented by their re­spec­tive foot­ball clubs: Cebu, Davao, Ba­colod, Taguig, Bi­nan, and Makati. There could be more. Busi­ness firms can al­ready de­cide whom to sup­port in the same way that Emi­rates ad­ver­tises through Real Madrid or Qatar Air­lines through FC Barcelona.

The forth­com­ing event will be an oc­ca­sion to cel­e­brate the his­tory of foot­ball in the Philip­pines through the launch­ing of a book I co-au­thored with some of the lead­ing sports jour­nal­ists of this coun­try as well as to be en­light­ened on a road map for the beau­ti­ful game to be pre­sented by top of­fi­cials of the Philip­pine Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion. I hope that those who will at­tend the brief­ing will be­come co-founders of the Philip­pines Foot­ball League that one day will be an in­stru­ment for pro­duc­ing some world-class Filipino foot­ball play­ers as well as con­tribut­ing to a vi­able in­dus­try in the en­ter­tain­ment world.

As as an ed­u­ca­tor, I am also bank­ing on foot­ball as a ve­hi­cle for val­ues and virtues for­ma­tion among the youth and a chan­nel for peace among the var­i­ous re­gional and eth­nic groups of the Philip­pine ar­chi­pel­ago. Those in­ter­ested in at­tend­ing the event may get in touch with Mr. Martin Badoy at email or tel. 637-0912 loc. 350.

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