Football Marketing – trying to flog a bad product!
We all have heard of the adage, you cannot sell a bad product! And so it would seem when one considers the mishaps Sri Lanka Football has long endured! Only last week all DIALOG CHAMPIONS LEAGUE (DCL) matches were called off because referees failed to turn up. Poor guys, they had not been paid, we are told! Almost on cue, the National Football Youth Team returned to the island soundly beaten out of the AFC Tournament in Tajikistan. The national coach accompanying the team was to lament that they were not paid for their services; football num anthimai, he is supposed to have cried in the vernacular when a diehard supporter tried to comfort him. As if to compensate for this morbid state of affairs, a Swiss football team, Football without Borders arrived in the island on a goodwill tour which the FFSL embraced with glee and went on to announce that the national team will be coached by two European coaches for the forthcoming SAFF Championship in Bangladesh next year; amusingly, one of them is supposed to focus on fitness. How nice!
One wag bemoaned the tragicomedy at Football House, saying that the motto of the FFSL seems to be. That is a fair comment for fans who are entertained with constant jaunts of Football without Goals the FFSL President and his cohorts, out on a jet at the drop of a hat. Last week, social media was awash with a Presidential romp on a dessert buggy followed by a proud pose with the AFC President at their new offices in KL. That is the glamour that Sri Lanka Football enjoys, while the sport itself nose-dives to depths never before seen in this country.
Following election as President of the FFSL, Anura De Silva made a glib statement that he was assured of a sponsorship offer, larger than anything that Football had ever seen before in Sri Lanka. That cannot be an idle boast for a sport that languishes without any significant commercial support. Sadly, it is known that the Chairmanship of the FFSL Marketing Committee offered to a young tycoon was rejected by the smart entrepreneur who obviously prefers to take care of his First Division Club rather than join the bandwagon of brethren who are taking the President down the garden path. Neither has the FFSL revived its Vision & Mission statement, nor has it endorsed the master-plan and budget that normally governs its primary objectives and outlines its game plan. All these perquisites are mundane deviations for a Football Management whose all consuming passion seems to be visits to citadels of world football, waving the Sri Lanka Vote in advance of the AFC C or FIFA Congresses! One cannot think what other motive drives these self styled administrators whose claim to fame is to take self(ies) with international stars and display them at Football House, as if that alone can offer a life of make believe to their poor followers at home!
It is a fact that the FFSL never fully understood the intricacies of brand marketing, mistaking it for sponsorship or occasional benevolences from friendly National Associations as well as the largesse of FIFA and AFC. The FFSL never came to grips that to commercially market Football, its product quality and consumer demand had to be sustained and developed. Long term neglect and preponderance with perennial grants from big daddy have kept the FFSL in clover for decades. Sepp Blatter refined this umbilical interdependence, perpetuated even to this day. Thus accountability is not a watchword at FFSL; a ROI mindset is mind gobbling to these officials. The basic premise that gate revenues keep the ball in play is beyond understanding of most jokers in the pack! Hand-outs are what is popular and greedily sought after in the backrooms of the FFSL.
A few years ago, the FIFA Development Program identified a need for a Marketing Division to drive revenue generation at the FFSL. Thus a Marketing Director was appointed at a never before heard fee and given the task of brining in the shekels to Football House. FIFA did not realize the charm of selling a bad product. The honest gentleman ended up doing everything but marketing, while the Ex-Co found a nice whipping boy to cover their sins, while doing little else than grandstanding at football forums. For sure, some semblance of Football Marketing did take place when the likes of Trevor Reckerman were allowed to play in short bursts in the FFSL corridors of power. Past event such as the Bristol League and the Milo Youth Program and the recent Cargills FA Cup were brief trysts of football ebullience while the grand design of Regional Football Centers and the HOLCIM competitions engineered by the godfather
football, Manilal Fernando cannot be disregarded. These were flashes of brilliance but the FFSL never fully mastered the artistry of exploiting the islandwide penetration that Football offered. DIALOG has faithfully stayed with the sport but with the selfish intent of preempting a competitive bid. That the FFSL is compelled to subsidise the cost of running the DCL is something DIALOG must come to terms with. Otherwise the giant digital service provider will be left with a bad product in its stable.
On top of all penalties the FFSL faces, is the specter of grand larceny that goes on unabated within its doors. For reasons not apparent, the Sports Ministry continues to live in denial while millions are spirited away. How an organization pursues marketing its wares on the one hand and allow thieves to pilfer its hard earned funds on the other, is something the minister will have to answer one day!
FFSL boss, Anura de Silva, exploring the desert on an ATV, as FFSL is striving to keep alive