The global game tends to get smaller every day. I could fly to Dubai, New York, or Tokyo and have the same conversation with a stranger about Wayne Rooney’s distressing form for Manchester United and they’d all reply with the same concerned look about the future of England s star. In todays modern market with the best efforts of Sky, the Premier League has become a media vehicle unrivaled across the globe as foreign viewers fight to watch what they believe to be the pinnacle of world football. Indonesia, more so than others, have embraced this.
After the Asian economic breakdown of the late 90’s. The Indonesian government invested heavily in telecommunications throughout the country to cater to its bulging 230 million strong population. Large budgets were allocated to establish Mobile network markets alongside fixed wireless services within people’s homes. By 2008, the market was seeing a yearly growth of 50% and the last figures published in January 2010 reported mobile subscribers had recently passed 150 million, increasing by 12 million the year before and broadband subscribers peaking at 40 million.
With new media came a new thirst for knowledge, and with a new thirst for knowledge, came different avenue’s of entertainment for the general public. As more and more Indonesian’s began to log on to the internet and browse topics of interest. A large community of football fans – predominantly, people willing to bet on football – began to arise as a product of the broadband boom of the past decade.
‘‘The number of Indonesians consuming media on the net and on their phones is growing every year and the Barclays Premier League is by far the best content vehicle to facilitate that trend even further. ” – Julian Jackson, Vice President of TSA Media Group.
This coincided with the rise of the English Premier League – a system built on entertainment, marketing, and a title chase that offered (or at least claimed) the possibility of four different potential champions, leading to a perfect betting market that offered more unpredictably than its Spanish or Italian counter parts.
However, this began to take a toll on the domestic state of football in Indonesia. Constantly overshadowed by the more glamorous, English alternative. The Indonesia Super League found itself neglected, under-financed and riddled with corruption to the note of bribing and match fixing as the domestic teams and players found themselves in a dark and hopeless position. You wouldn’t have to look far to find shady business in the league, with Nurdin Halid the president of PSSI(Indonesian football association) sitting on his throne unopposed since 2003 despite four separate jail sentences since his appointment.
At continental level, Indonesian sides have struggled to make the smallest of impacts, with last seasons champions, Persipuya Jayapura, the only club managing to get past the initial rounds of qualification by gaining automatic qualification to the group stages to then go on to concede no less than 29 goals in the 6 matches of the group.
This year’s Asian Cup was a good example and perhaps the last straw for many, of the depth of Indonesia’s rut. With the national side(whose entire squad play in the Super League) finishing bottom of their qualifying group behind smaller countries such as Kuwait and Oman without a single win in all six matches.
For a country the size of Indonesia’s, the situation was beyond unacceptable. It didn’t take a genius to notice the affection for the sport was unrivaled by a league system that failed to capitalize on the passionate fans in the country with a domestic competition worthy of the Indonesian infatuation for the beautiful game and progress in Asian football.
Action was taken with a National Football Congress(KNS) called to discuss the future of Indonesian football that took place last March. This entailed a group of ex-professionals, media companies, and politicians sitting down with the PSSI to arrange immediate changes to combat the problems within the game. Initial thoughts after the conference suggested that the talks had went well and the PSSI alongside president Halid, seemed optimistic and encouraging about the changes suggested.
They didn’t – by the end of the summer it was evident that the PSSI had no intention of changing anything besides a cash scheme to remove financial support from the government for the ISL clubs and had set the wheels of change in motion.
“During the 2010 Football Congress in Malang, East Java, everyone agreed that football should be resurrected and we must find ways to improve it, including reforming the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) to meet people’s expectations,” –Andi Mallarangeng, state minister for youth and sports affair.
Politicians began speaking out against the association, fans demonstrated, and before too long, three Super League sides(Persema Malang, Persibo Bojonegoro and PSM Makassar) had left the league in pursuit of healthier options. Officials from the three clubs got in touch with members of the committee from the KNS and began making blue prints for a new league system based around youth development and increasing the quality of football in the country. As well as completing a TV deal with regulators,Indosiar, to show two live matches a week.
The PSSI then replied by sending an official complaint to FIFA who replied in an uninterested manner with a simple letter detailing that the PSSI should deal with its own domains problems as they turned a blind eye to the whole affair. The PSSI then labeled the renegade league ‘illegal‘ threatening that players risked their positions on the national side by playing for the break off clubs.
The national police service where quick to step in and state that there was nothing ‘illegal’ about the new league as long as they collaborated with police services in correlation to match time’s and allowing the fixtures to be policed correctly.
The league has now been set up under the name ‘The Indonesia Premier League’ with the three break away sides accompanied by sixteen new clubs to make up a nineteen club system with the long-term goal of a competition of suitable quality, devoid of corruption, financially independent from the state, and most importantly – the support of the Indonesian people.