Concern grows over Thai government football

Football Association of Thailand secretary general Worawi Makudi has tried to cool growing anger against the government-controlled Sports Authority of Thailand’s decision to create a rival football league.

SAT, along with the Special Branch of the Royal Thai Police, discussed their proposal for a new Professional Football Association with Football Association president Vijitr Getkaew yesterday.

And Worawi urged all parties to remain level-headed over the contentious issue.

"The Football Association and SAT have been working together for a long time and I want our good relationship to continue," he said, as quoted by Thai Football. "The FA has got resources like players and the SAT has to use these players for tournaments like the SEA Games, the Asian Games and the Olympic Games. We should get together in the development of the current association rather than set up another one in competition."

Mr Worawi said it was still unclear what form the new league would take, or who would ultimately be behind it. "We don't know whether it will set up by the government's Ministry of Tourism and Sports or by a private organisation."

However the minister of tourism and sports, Pracha Maleenont, has vowed to go ahead with establishing the Professional Football Association and a new league on 8 January, 20 days before the FA’s inaugural Thailand Premier League kicks-off. The government-backed opening match will be presided over by prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thai Football reported.
Pracha said he thought the dispute could be resolved. "We all want to see football in Thailand grow and we must find the best means to do it … It is good to have the two leagues competing against one another … It should help upgrade Thai football."

His new league will feature mostly low-ranking provincial clubs with eight teams from the former Provincial League 1 (Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Sawan, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chanthaburi, Surat Thani, Satun and Si Sa Ket) joining six teams from the Provincial League 2 (Phitsanulok, Sakhon Nakhon, Narathiwat, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen and Chachoengsao) and two teams from the Thailand League - the Port Authority of Thailand and TOT Corporation.

The Professional League champions will receive 10 million baht, runners-up five million, third place three million and fourth place two million and matches will be shown live on channels 9, 11, iTV and UBC on a rotating basis.

The starting 12 clubs of the official Premier League are Thai-Honda, Osotspa, Provincial Electricity Authority, Bangkok University, Bangkok Bank, BEC-Tero Sasana, Port Authority of Thailand, Krungthai Bank, Royal Thai Army, Chon Buri, Suphan Buri and defending champions the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly.

The champions will receive Bt 10 million in prize money with the runners-up, the third place and the fourth placed teams receiving Bt 3 million, Bt 2 million and Bt 1 million respectively.

At the end of the 2005-2006 season, the bottom two clubs were to be relegated to Division One and replaced by the champions and runners-up from both Division One and the Provincial League for the next two seasons. This process was to increase teams participating in the Premier League to 14 in 2006-2007 and to 16 in 2007-2008.

See also: Government move may sabotage Thailand football (17 Dec)