Friday, April 15, 2011

Home and away

The Phnom Penh Crown headquarters at Tuol Kork taking shape
Cambodian football must begin to move forwards into a professional era. There is a whole list of priorities that need to be done to achieve this from employing professional administrators, to ensuring financially-sound clubs, to lawful players contracts, to a countrywide youth and grassroots development plan and much more. Even announcing the fixtures more than a week in advance of the season kicking-off would be a start. One of the most basic priorities is for all clubs to own or lease their own ground and for the C-League to be played on a proper home and away basis. At the moment, all matches are played at the National Olympic Stadium, so all teams are on equal footing, there is no advantage whatsoever of playing at home, or playing away. Whilst it makes it straightforward for the football-watching public as all the games are at one location, it does nothing to help generate any loyal following, any pride in playing matches at your home ground, there is no real or obvious distinction between the teams. To bring Cambodian football on a par with most other countries, both in the region and worldwide, this has got to be addressed sooner than later. My understanding is that this is something that the football federation president is keen on happening.
To achieve this, the federation must set a timeline for this basic but major step forward to be completed. A maximum of five years from now, all of the ten teams in the premier division of the C-League must have their own home ground or stadium and be capable of playing competitive matches in both the league and cup competitions, safely and in line with a set of criteria, that would include a suitable playing surface and practice area, changing room facilities, floodlights and both seated and standing terraces. Obviously that would be a massive leap for many clubs to achieve as we stand today. Perhaps only the Army, who have the Old Stadium as their headquarters, would be in a position to make that move right now. Though teams like Phnom Penh Crown, who own their training ground in Tuol Kork and who have room to expand, could achieve it in a fairly short time frame. For others it would take a while longer and without a firm financial commitment of sponsors and benefactors, not to mention paying supporters coming through the turnstiles, then for some it would be impossible to make it happen. Some clubs will fall by the wayside, others will rise to meet the challenge, but its a step that Cambodian football must take in my view, and one which they should put in motion sooner than later.

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