Bed Hopping: Football Alliances
by Absolute Thai Football
A year ago Athletico Madrid trumpeted their their “strategic alliance” with Muang Thong United. Madrid CEO Miguel, son of Jesus, Gil openly explained their need for cash to build a new stadium and how they were happy to sleep around to get it. Madrid showered love on Chicago Fire, Shangai Shenhua and six other “strategic partners.” This was clearly not a monogamous relationship for one side. So why did the Thai team agree to it?
The alliance promised player exchanges,friendly matches and mutual merchandising, but the then MT coach went off message, suggesting no Madrid player would come this way. Los Colchoneros (the mattress makers) made the bed and their lovers are expected to lie in it. A more productive connection for the creaking ex champions is their informal one with Arsenal, seeing academy players go to North London and Performance Supervisor Steve Morrow flying over here to assess academy teams.
More realistically, TOT partner English League One’s Huddersfield Town. Whilst not glamorous, their impressive Galpharn stadium houses a well run club currently in a promotion place. If Thai players can cope with the harsh northern weather, they will gain valuable experience and volunteers to leave a Yorkshire winter for Thailand won’t be hard to find. Another mutually beneficial approach is Buriram’s Road to Stardom Project, optimising King Power’s ownership of Leicester City. Last September eight members of Newin Chidchob’s academy flew over to train with the Foxes’ reserve team. This grassroots approach creates opportunities on an equal footing, but this is more difficult for small clubs who have less negotiating power and even greater needs.
The “partnership” between BEC Terro and Arsenal is a sobering one. Other than a 2006 kick around at their London Colney training ground, the Gooners have allowed the Thai team to use their kit ( forcing the Thais not to sell copies) and little else of substance. Terro join other partners in Colorado Rapids and Vietnam’s Hoang Anh Gia Lai buried deep in the Arsenal website. This does not a commitment make. With the changes about to happen at Terro, let’s hope that they can renegotiate on a more even keel . At the moment they are an appendix to an Arsenal footnote.
Rather than club to club agreements, general and substantial sponsorship can benefit more teams. Chang’s seven year agreement with Everton involved David Moyes recently training Army and Suphanburi players. Singha’s high profile EPL pitchside advertising coordinates with high profile teams visiting the Kingdom. Chelsea this year, Manchester United next year and, in two years both teams playing against each other here.
Partnerships are about power. As Thai football develops its Asian and world profile, it is time to hold something back, not surrender on the first date. Sleeping with such a powerful ally might bring pleasure now but, tomorrow morning, there will be a cup of coffee where the English team used to be as soon as they get a better offer.