Bids hot up for FAM sponsorship

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Abdul Mokhtar (left) said the national body is still evaluating and negotiating with the sponsors as no decision has been made. D’Silva (centre) sees much potential in the Malaysian league while Lee hopes the winning bidder can contribute the most towards football development.

PETALING JAYA: The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) is in for a windfall with an unprecedented RM180 million in bids for exclusive sponsorship of the local Premier League.

Also known as the M-League, the sponsorship sees three parties putting up millions of ringgit in bids to secure rights to the league and by extension, broadcasting and advertising exclusivity for five years.

One of the main objectives for the sponsorship deal is to privatise the M-League which it is hoped would upgrade the standard and quality of the league.

Those in the running are incumbent Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd who is partnering Fox International with RM50 million a year; Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) and Media Prima Bhd with a bid of RM55 million, and Zenith and IMG Sports which are offering RM75 million.

By sheer numbers, Zenith, it is understood, is the favourite to land the job.

That FAM officials were seen with Zenith executives at the World Cup in Brazil in July further amplified the rumblings that the deal has been sealed.

Astro’s current five-year sponsorship which expires at the end of the year is valued at RM30 million a year, whereby the company spends another RM20 million annually on broadcasting and promoting the league.

FAM, meanwhile, has been pestering incumbent Astro to waive its right of first refusal and a right to match clause — an indication that the FAM is not keen on having the broadcaster renew its sponsorship for another five years.

Under the present sponsorship deal, Astro has the right to match or better any offer — and with deep pockets, the satellite television company is certainly able to.

Any attempt to keep Astro in the dark may result in a breach of contract action by Astro.

It is understood, apart from the present offer of RM50 million, what makes Astro’s offer to renew less attractive is the inclusion of a “best practices” clause.

“Astro wants to know what its sponsorship money is to be used for and wants FAM to commit to a certain amount to grassroots development as well as players’ welfare,” said a source.

The source added that presently each state FA only gets RM300,000 a year from the RM30 million that Astro pumps in annually, which Astro is not too happy about.

Meanwhile, several FAM executives are unhappy that they have been kept in the dark over the sponsorship negotiations. One thorny issue is the appointment of Hashim Natt — alleged to be a relative of FAM deputy president Datuk Abdul Mokhtar Ahmad — to negotiate on behalf of FAM.

“Who is Hashim Natt? He is not even an FAM official and we were not informed of his appointment.

“The negotiations must be done in a transparent manner as a lot of money is involved,” said one official, adding that a percentage of the deal would be allocated as broker’s fees.

In Abdul Mokhtar’s defence, it was the FAM executive council (exco) which voted him to head the special committee to identify and deal with sponsors.

When contacted, Abdul Mokhtar said the national body is still evaluating and negotiating with the sponsors as no decision has been made.

“We are in the process. Nothing has been decided yet as we still have time until the end of the year. We are not going to rush into making a decision as we are evaluating the proposals carefully,” he said.

He also admitted to appointing Hashim.

“Hashim was appointed by me to assist in the negotiations and with his expertise and experience as a chartered accountant, it helps in the evaluation of the potential sponsors.

“I have been given the task to identify the sponsors by the exco members and it is my prerogative to appoint anyone with the calibre and the right qualifications to assist me.

“At the end of the day, I am just evaluating as the exco will have the final say.”

He also dismissed rumours that he is related to Hashim.

“Hashim Natt is not my brother-in-law and I don’t know from where people are getting the idea. He is just someone I have brought in to assist,” said Abdul Mokhtar.

He added that it is not easy when evaluating potential sponsors and it will take time.

“It is like evaluating an apple and a mango,” he said. “The exco knows what I’m doing and the president knows it as well. I have been transparent on the process of how the negotiations are done,” he added.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 28, 2014.