by Absolute Thai Football
EPL television bidding wars use more noughts than Shane MacGowan’s bar bill paid with Zimbabwe dollars. In Thailand of course it is pretty much a binary situation. Either Truesports show it or we return to camera lenses seemingly smeared with Vaseline or internet coverage that freezes more than it flows.
Whilst there are no English language shows at present, satellite coverage has catapulted the profile of Thailand’s top league and players. Commentaries are variable at best but, as young and dynamic presenters like Tang Mo on 102 develop, the quality should improve. Coverage, whilst technically basic, does create clear match evidence. The recent ban for Teerathorn’s stamp against Osotsapa would have escaped sanction previously (even though it happened whilst touching the Assistant Referee.)
Considering the monopoly Truevisions have, they could easily demand fundamental change. This is where a strong FA could stop the tail wagging the dog. Some innovations could be countenanced, but a non negotiable ethos is integral to the product and not the producers. Integrity is all. If football is seen as a plaything changed on a whim it becomes a circus act performing cartwheels for TV and won’t develop the traction needed to create meaningful development.
In the North American Soccer league innovation became desperation. A clock counting down to zero, a 35 yard line designed to stop offside traps instead of a half way line and a shootout to decide drawn matches were TV begging letters. A vacuum where an ethos should have been was filled with showmanship and heady spin; whilst a select number of games attracted 70,000, most teams failed to get a fifth of that total. You can fool some of the people some of the time. To be fair to them them, the organizers have leant their lessons from this debacle and now have a pragmatic plan.
So can TV in Thailand develop the game? Aping the current EPL is pointless, but we could learn from them at their inception in 1992. The first EPL television contract was negotiated against a backdrop of hooliganism, poor stadia and an exodus of top stars to European clubs; without a clear strategy they would have had no bargaining power. Unlike other European leagues, they negotiated television rights collectively, so less income went to the top few clubs.The money was divided into three parts: half equally between clubs, a quarter based on their league position and the final quarter as facilities fees for televised games, with the top clubs generally receiving the largest share. The income from overseas rights was divided equally between the twenty clubs.
There are plenty of issues for the EPL to resolve such as the Big Four dominance and a widening gap to the lower leagues, but following this collectivism in Thailand would give smaller clubs like Khon Khaen more chance of surviving in the top flight and delivering a TPL less like the disastrous European Union and a little more like English counties: financially overseen but not overawed.