by Alam Zeb Safi
The process to bring various departmental football teams playing in Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) into the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) club licensing net were initiated by the Pakistan Football Federation (AFC) under Faisal Saleh Hayat. Several seminars were held and meetings with the heads of the departments conducted by the relevant wing.
However, the disruption in Pakistan’s football affairs stopped the process. Everybody relating to Pakistan’s football is aware of the issues of the sport. FIFA has appointed a Normalisation Committee which has been tasked to hold the PFF elections.
For featuring in any AFC club event, Pakistan’s departments playing in the PPFL will have to fulfill the AFC Club Licensing regulations.
What is club licensing and why is this important? Let’s ask former PFF Head League, Club Development and Club Licensing Shahid Khokhar and he will tell you about that in details.
“Club licensing is basically the process one club has to follow to become eligible for participation in a certain competition. It has to meet certain criteria issued by the organiser of the competition, which might be FIFA, Confederation or the Member Association itself,” Shahid told ‘The News on Sunday’ in an interview.
“FIFA and the Confederations adopted a gradual and flexible approach in the beginning when the member associations were asked to implement the system. For example, in the case of Pakistan, a tailor-made set of criteria named globally as ‘Club Licensing Regulations’ or ‘CLR’ with the help of AFC was laid down in 2015. It is another thing that these regulations or club licensing system has not been successfully implemented in Pakistan. I want to first introduce the CLR to football stakeholders in Pakistan and highlight the importance of the implementation of CLR for game development in the country,” Shahid said.
“Like in the rest of the world, in Pakistan, for the teams to participate in the country’s top league, ‘PPFL’, the salient criteria remained almost the same. After ‘Club Identity Criteria’, the CLR speaks about the ‘Sporting Criteria’ which emphasises the appointment of a coach having minimum AFC ‘B’ Coaching Certificate along with an assistant coach having minimum AFC ‘C’ Coaching Certificate,” he said.
“Besides, every club has to run a youth (Under-19) team. To implement this extensively important and difference-making criteria in Pakistan, as the head of the subject during my services with PFF I strongly feel that an innovative strategy is needed. And as compared to the first criteria where one only needs to have a close study of the relevant factors, the fulfillment of this requirement needs finances.
“Then there are compulsions regarding infrastructure. A club which applies for a License to participate in Pakistan Premier League should have guaranteed access to a home-playing field for its home matches in the competition and a year-round available training field and an administration office,” Shahid said.
“The CLR then asks the club to meet certain requirements while fulfilling under the head of ‘Personnel and Administrative Criteria’. In some countries, there are two types of clubs: privately-run and state-owned. Both have a huge difference in characteristics, behaviours, outcomes, objectives and working styles. This criteria is a tough ask for the clubs of both types for absolutely different reasons,” he added.
“To me the ‘Legal Criteria’ are the most important one after ‘Clubs Identity’. I have reached the conclusion that the sufferings of Pakistan’s football are mainly because of not fulfilling this criteria. I believe no club should be given registration with the PFF if it does not meet this requirement. However, in the perspective of Pakistan Premier League, which actually is the prime subject of the CLR, this criteria is met by the participating clubs,” he said.
“I firmly believe that if Pakistan or any other nation desires to make its way forward in this beautiful sport and glorify its image among other countries through football, it must focus on and support the clubs in implementation of ‘Club Licensing’ as a development tool,” Shahid appended.
“The implementation of CLR, around the world, starts from the elite clubs or top league of that country which in case of Pakistan is Pakistan Premier League where the participants are mostly the departments. During my interaction with departments for the implementation of CLR, I found them reluctant and reserved. Why? Unfortunately, the sports controlling authorities think about the departments in an authoritarian way. The huge long-term role of departments is forgotten in a moment and the departments are pushed in the desired direction. As a result, the departments take it as a battle and the campaign fails,” he said.
“Another very important factor to be kept in mind is the background and mindset of the state organisations we call departments. For example, while talking about the CLR, the first requirement is to let the football teams adopt an independent identity, including a logo other than the departmental one. Why would the departments, spending millions on these teams annually, let this happen? Departments have difficulties in adopting the CLR because of lack of funds. Each top club is to have two youth teams. It needs a lot of additional finances which they don’t have. On the other hand, top private clubs other than departments clearly lack funds and administrative and technological skills.”