Indonesian clubs, officials ignore marketing allies

Indonesian football journalists and marketing experts were astonished that the few senior football leaders attending a seminar on building professionalism in national football left before the end of the program. All Indonesian Premier League clubs were invited to send officials to the event organised by the national newspaper Kompas and sports journal Bola at West Jakarta's Santika Premiere Hotel on Saturday but only Wahidin Halim, Mayor of nearby Tangerang City and Chairman of the Persikota club was present. The entire apparatus of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) was represented by its General Secretary Nugraha Besoes and Director of the National league Board, Andi Darussalam Tabusalla.

The critical issue addressed by the seminar was the central government's decision to ban local governments from using regional welfare budgets (APBD) to subsidise or sponsor professional football clubs. Of the 36 clubs currently in the Premier League, only four are privately financed; the rest being associated with municipalities. Marketing practitioners such as Fritz E Simandjuntak, Erick Tohir, and Hasani Abdulgani delivered presentations on alternative strategies on financing sport activities.

"Management must want to change their thought pattern if they want to finance their club through sponsorship, ticketing, merchandise and television," said Tohir, a businessman and also owner of the Mahaka basketball club. He highlighted football's advantages such as its spectators vastly outnumber those attending basketball games in Indonesia and the frequency of football games being far greater with almost all matches broadcast on television.

Both Simandjuntak and Abdulgani agreed that a new approach was essential if football clubs were to be successfully weaned away from the government purse. However it was noticed that all the football officials had "bolted" before the end of presentations. "Actually who is it that wants to be changed?" asked marketing expert Rhenald Kasali, author of the Re Code DNA, and the last speaker of the day, as he scanned the official-free audience.