by Jaron Genota on June 8, 2011
Author’s disclaimer: I’m not connected with the UFL nor have any inside information on what they plan for the next season. I don’t even know the name of the UFL commissioner!
So, the UFL is finally over. Air Force Rider, which has played consistently all season, sealed their 2nd consecutive UFL crown against Global Smartmatic. As the season draws to a close, I can’t help but feel elated that we actually have a proper league in the UFL. It may not be a professional national league but at least we are heading in the right direction.
I just learned this morning that in the 90’s, we had a semi-pro league called the Philippine League or P-League. My good friend, Mike Limpag, mentioned that it was actually an offshoot of the 1991 SEA Games miracle. The P-League even had TV coverage with PTV4 and was composed of 8 teams in a home and away format. Sadly, due to the cost of logistics and lack of private sponsors, the P-League didn’t last long.
It would be hard to tell if the P-League can survive if it was revived today but I’d rather we take the baby steps before attempting the big one. As Pinoy football fans crave for an organized professional league in the Philippines, we’ll just have to take it one step at a time. Hence, here goes my personal wish list for the United Football League:
1) IMPROVED OFFICIATING – as expected, it’s first on the list. I’ve written weeks ago that respect and fair play has been a problem in the UFL. Although I will not take this as an excuse to disrespect match officials, the league must do something about this issue. It’s not a secret that referees may make mistakes in calling the game. However, the fans have seen too many wrong calls. Worse, there are times when the calls are blatantly obvious and the referee is the only person in UMak to miss it.
A good example of good officiating is the recent Azkals vs. UFL All Stars match. There were crunching tackles in the game but the referee stayed consistent. A foul committed by one team is also a foul when committed by the other. The referee had full control of the match.
I’m not sure what kind of licensed referees the UFL is using but I hope the officiating issues are thoroughly reviewed. Once this has been fixed, I’m pretty sure that players will be less disappointed in playing the game and we can all enjoy better quality football.
2) MORE TEAMS BUT WITH MORE CONSISTENT TEAM LINEUPS – I understand that Nomads FC has been promoted and I’ve also heard of rumors that the league will expand from 7 teams to 10. However, there has to be consistency on the lineups of the UFL. In the recent season, there were too many lineup changes from all teams. One of the players once said ‘it’s pretty difficult to play here because you might have a different teammate every week.
Although I understand the predicaments leading to the lineup changes, I hope things stabilize in the next UFL season. It’s not a pro league and some players will have to leave as this isn’t their main source of living but hopefully, players who have committed to play for their teams remain committed for the whole season. Less lineup changes means it’s easier for the fans to follow their favorite teams – that includes the sponsors.
3) UFL TO WORK WITH UAAP/NCAA – it’s nice to see Ayi Nii Aryee playing in the UFL and I hope the other college players can follow suit regardless of whether they’ve already used up their college varsity eligibility or not. What a better way for these college players to fulfill their dream of being an Azkal than showing their skills in the UFL? For the sake of Philippine football, I hope the UFL with the help of the PFF and NCRFA can work with the UAAP/NCAA football committee on synchronizing a football season calendar that works for all parties. If they would like quality of football in the college level to become more competitive, then allow college players to be exposed in the UFL while at the same time not compromising the football schedule of the UAAP/NCAA.
4) VENUE – UMak is a great venue. It’s accessible and has very good facilities. However, due to the tremendous amount of games being held there, the pitch condition has really suffered. If the UFL can manage to look at other accessible venues to take the pressure off the UMak pitch, then the better. I remember the game between Kaya Cignal and Army Fritz & Macziol IBM last May 29 which was a real mud match. Hopefully, this can be avoided in the future as it puts the players in great risk from injuries.
5) MORE MEDIA COVERAGE – although Balls Channel has been doing a great job with the UFL weekly show, I hope the UFL can soon get a live coverage and hopefully on free TV. There’s a rumor going around that Sports 5 (sports arm of TV5) would like to get the UFL and broadcast the games live. I certainly hope this is true. Even if they can only broadcast one match every week, I’ll gladly take it.
As for print coverage, I believe only a few newspapers cover the UFL. The UFL may need to strengthen their partnership with media organizations to get more print coverage.
6) GET MORE FANS TO WATCH THE GAME – for a quality football match with no entrance fee, the UFL is a real bargain for all fans — football lovers or not. However, it seems a lot of people are still unaware of this. It would be great if the UFL can work with the Makati government in disseminating information about the games. It would be a tremendous boost for the residential areas around UMak. Currently, I’m not sure if they are aware that it’s free to watch the games.
Another suggestion is for the UFL to ask the corporate sponsors to invite their employees to watch the matches in UMak and cheer for their team. If the PBA teams can do this, why can’t the UFL? It would be nice to see Meralco, Rider, Smartmatic, Orient Freight, Fritz & Macziol, ATR Kim-Eng and Cignal employees cheering for their teams. As for Army, Navy and Air Force, wouldn’t it be great to see our servicemen in the stands cheering for their comrades?
7) PLAYER SAFETY – I can’t seem to find an ambulance on standby in UMak. The last thing we want to happen is for tragedy to strike on our beloved football league because of the lack of emergency facilities. I could be wrong on this though as I’m sure the UFL puts the safety of the players as a priority.
8) CONCESSION STANDS AND FAN MERCHANDISE – I always feel surprised that there’s still no concession stands in UMak during UFL games. I understand that the UFL pays a hefty sum to rent UMak for the games and allowing fast-food concessionaires to rent a space would help alleviate the rental cost.
I also hope the UFL can produce fan merchandise. I won’t mind buying one being a huge fan of the UFL. I also won’t mind if it has the logos of the sponsors. At the least, it shows you’re promoting the sponsors which mean that more private corporations will take notice and offer their sponsorship. The proceeds of the sales can also go to the costs of renting UMak. Ultimately, the concession stands and fan merchandise stands helps on the rental costs but also makes the whole matchgoing experience complete. (I do like the hotdogs though and the Heinz ketchup!)