By Umaid Wasim – DAWN
KARACHI: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) described it as a “milestone achievement”, although it comes in the 12th edition of the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL).
“It’s never too late to make a change,” PFF’s Club Development and Media manager told Dawn on Tuesday after a news conference in Lahore where sponsors for next season’s PPFL were announced.
“This is our first step towards professionalising the PPFL and we hope that it will be a defining moment in the history of the PPFL.”
Five months after being appointed under AFC’s Kickoff programme, Shahid and Fahad Ayaz, who is PFF’s Marketing and Integrity manager, have achieved something the PPFL had been yearning for years — a kit sponsor and another for the opening and closing ceremonies.
The kit sponsor is Ballon Sports, a Sialkot-based sports goods company, which will provide free playing gear for all 12 PPFL teams.
“This is the first time a local brand has got involved with Pakistan football,” Ballon Sports director Tahir Nadeem told Dawn. “We’ve been involved with several foreign brands like other companies based in Sialkot but now we’re hoping our involvement will boost the local game.”
Sponsors to boost Pakistan football’s flailing top-tier league
Officials from PPFL teams also said it was a good step forward but said they had doubts about using locally-manufactured boots.
“Nowadays no one uses locally-manufactured boots,” Zabe Khan, the sports head of PPFL champions K-Electric told Dawn on Tuesday. “This step will benefit clubs more than the departments.”
Four-time winners Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) manager Ayaz Butt echoed Zabe’s views.
“We’ll still have to spend on getting training gear,” he told Dawn on Tuesday. “But as far as boots are concerned, we need a deal with big brands like Nike or Adidas.”
Both, however, agreed that the “initial” step will boost the league and said that more needs to be done with Ayaz saying that the “league needs to be televised”.
“Shahid and Fahad have been given a key task of revitalising the PPFL and hopefully more will be done in the future,” Ayaz said.
Shahid told Dawn that talks were underway to have live broadcast of the PPFL from the next season and added that the PFF was hoping to tie-up with an international brand in the near future.
It will also be the first time that the PPFL will have a proper opening and closing ceremony with both those events set to be held at the Shezan Regale, a plush restaurant in Lahore which will see all competing teams, players, PFF officials and media attend.
“Football’s following has gained momentum in Pakistan,” Shezan Bakers director Bilal Afzal said at the news conference. “It’s now time the corporate sponsors come forward to support the game.”
The PPFL, launched in 2004, has been suffering over the years because of the lack of sponsorship and television broadcast. There is also angst for teams with few rest days between matches.
But Fahad hopes that the latest development will be key in boosting the country’s flailing top-tier league.
“We’re hoping more sponsors come in and football grows,” he told Dawn. “The agreements we’ve signed will go a long way in boosting Pakistan football.”
Shahid, meanwhile, added that after this first step they will look towards fully introducing the club-licensing regulations which will see departments become clubs and “profit-generating” entities.
It took 12 years for the PFF to get sponsors for kits and opening/closing ceremonies but Shahid is hoping that further changes will come soon.
“We are looking at further avenues to develop the PPFL and I’m confident it won’t take another decade for further changes to be made,” he said.
Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2015