BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Over the past year or so, 33-time Malaysia Cup champions Selangor have been experiencing a resurgence that has seen them garner the attention of the local media, as well as that of their own fans.
Acknowledging the need for the former Malaysian powerhouse to step into the 21st century, the Red Giants under association president Tengku Amir Shah Ibni Sultan Sharafuddin instituted many changes at the club management level, that are driven by five transformative cores.
Tengku Amir. Photo by Zulhilmi Zainal
These transformational cores are needed not only to lead the club towards improved competitiveness, but also towards financial independence and sustainability, similar to most of the world's top-level professional clubs.
The club meanwhile has been working hard across all departments; their marketing office firing on all cylinders to attract sponsors and persuading their long-suffering supporters to return to the Shah Alam Stadium, and their technical staff working on growing their capabilities and improving on their competitiveness.
Unfortunately, in 2019, the club's first full season under Tengku Amir, the supporters' response has been rather middling, with healthy crowds seen only during matches against eventual league champions JDT and quarter-final and semi-final stages of the Malaysia Cup.
Total attendance: 76,566
Average attendance: 6,961
Highest HOME attendance: 21,616 vs JDT
Lowest HOME attendance: 1,422 vs KL
Stadium utilisation: 9%#OptaJ pic.twitter.com/yN3h5oCjrX
— Juan Bapakaw (@juanbudiman) December 2, 2019
Many and more-accomplished writers have written about the need for Malaysian fans to consistently support their team in order to help the push towards financial independence, but it was very recently that the Selangor state Menteri Besar (chief minister) Dato' Seri Amirudin Shari, in an interview with Goal, restated succinctly the importance of continued fan support to a team's financial strength.
Amirudin's government is currently funding a big portion of the Red Giant's budget, something that the club officials admit, but they have also repeatedly stated their target of weaning off state funding over the coming decade.
However, certain quarters in Malaysian football, by choosing to ignore the club's commitment to becoming financially independent, have attacked Selangor's current reliance on state funding. These critics' reasons behind attacking Selangor's plan are only known to themselves, but the fans should realise that they need to start taking over soon the role of financially propping up the team they profess to love.
But what is more important beyond financial strength, there is another, less obvious reason for Selangor fans to start backing their club more consistently.
The same external parties that out of nowhere started criticising their reliance on state funding, have also been undermining the Red Giants' transformation process, resulting in the resignation of certain key personnel, not out of guilt, but out of the need to remove the attention away from the management.
This attempt at undermining the rebuilding process is not something new. Kelantan have gone through it during their heyday, Pahang have fallen victim, and so have Felda United, and these clubs never again looked like Super League title contenders.
And the attempts will be more purposeful and brazen in the coming seasons, the more serious Selangor get on recapturing their glory.
While it is important for the club management to ensure that they dot every i's and cross every t's on every form which must then be submitted days ahead of time (with proof of receipt), and for them to not succumb to the 'I scratch your back and you scratch mine' attitude that has permeated club football in the country, the fans' consistent match attendance too serves a purpose in protecting their club.
Those with sabotage on their minds will think twice before punishing a club that commands huge crowds every week on trumped up charges, knowing that a few of those fans will pore over every letter of the case papers and statements, and any questionable judgment will be called out by the fans who are proficient in legal matters. The Red Giants faithful must show that they have the numbers, and the will to protect their club's endeavours.
The fans have previously not hesitated to protest the club's previous management and squads when they made questionable decisions, but now that they have a half-decent board, it's only right that they switch the direction of their rebeliousness outwards, against those who seek to sabotage the club. At the same time, they have to ensure that the 60,000-seater Shah Alam Stadium is at least half-packed during every home game, to prove that they have the numbers.
Meanwhile, the club would do well to have an attorney that is proficient on Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) processes on speed dial.
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