The list of sponsors in Nepali football is quite impressive. It reads like the who
’s who of international brands – Red Bull, Samsung, Pepsi, Western Union
, LG, CocaCola, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Mahindra, etc. Add to that all our home brands like Nepal Telecom, Mega Bank, Nepal Bank Limited and Yeti Airlines.
The only thing more remarkable than all the sponsors in Nepali soccer is the lack of development of football in the country despite all those sponsors!
You can keep your FIFA Rankings and AFC Challenge Cup results against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, but by any pragmatic measure Nepali football is stuck in neutral. Just ask yourself this simple question – how have ANFA and the top division Clubs improved themselves from five years back?
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one scratching your head on that question.
Time and again Nepali football officials have proven themselves to be shortsighted. If you give them 10 Rupees today they’ll spend all 10 Rupees by tonight on tournament organization or players’ salary. If you give them 10 million Rupees, they’ll spend all 10 million Rupees on the same.
That is why I continually show very little sympathy to the plight of Nepali football clubs. No matter how much money you give them it will never be enough, as they keep burning it all on players’ salary. Thus you have kids who can hardly complete a 10 meter pass earning 20,000+ a month in the Martyrs League.
In the meantime there is no investment whatsoever on facilities, marketing, youth football, coaching and referee development programs and a host of other things that are necessary to truly develop the standard of our football.
This is where sponsors come into the equation. With the amount of money they are putting into the game they have a lot of leverage and they usually will have a solid organizational structure and professional management that can help influence and greatly develop Nepali football.
Look at the role sponsors play in international football:
As allegations of corruption in the most recent FIFA Presidential race came-out, FIFA partners Coca-Cola
and Emirates all released a press release stating how they were concerned and disappointed about the revelations thus putting immense pressure on FIFA to act.
McDonalds has long been a partner of the England FA. They have been instrumental in helping promote and develop grassroots football across the UK through clinics, workshops and via the Internet.
Most recently, Etihad Airways signed a whopping half-a-billion dollar sponsorship with Manchester City Football Club that will see them pay for part of the redevelopment of the area around Manchester City’s football ground.
In Nepal, sponsors dump money on ANFA and clubs and – well, that’s basically about it! They pretty much close their eyes to the ails of Nepali football, pat themselves on the back for doing their corporate social responsibility, and put nice little photos in their annual reports about how they are helping to develop sports in Nepal.
Sometimes sponsors even become a part of the problem. For example, there is one company that has a reputation of steering clubs away from wearing their official uniform colors just so they can offload their excess apparel inventory on them. Now you can understand the reason why a club would play in pink uniforms!
Sponsors need to become far more proactive and truly help develop football in Nepal by flexing their muscle. Imagine what would have happened if San Miguel last year threatened to cut their payment to ANFA/Clubs if there was any hint of match fixing in the league. Certainly it would have given JYC and Machhindra officials pause before they gave the green light on their disgraceful end of season matches against Boys Union and APF respectively.
What if Mitsubishi demanded that Three Star Club started a youth football program with at least half the funds they will be providing them or Nepal Telecom insisted on Nepal Police Club shirts being available for purchase at every sports shop in Kathmandu? It’s these sorts of actions that will really help take Nepali football to the next level, not Buddha
Chemjong (TSC) or Bhola Silwal (NPC) getting a few hundred bucks extra on their next contract.
Money talks and those writing the checks need to speak up!
Biplav Gautam is a former Development Officer of the Asian Football Confederation and an evangelist of sport in Nepal. You can follow him on Facebook