Fair Play: What would you do if you have P80 million?

(This is the draft of my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu on July 16)
ME, I’d quit my job and spend the rest of my life stalking Maria Sharapova.

That would be interesting.

But what if you have your P80 million and you have to spend it for football.

What would you do?

Buy your way to the UFL title?  That certainly will work and with that big a war chest, you’d collar all the best players plus their brothers, too.

“I have P80 million and because I love football so much, I’ll spend it all for football.” You’d probably announce, too, because we live in a PR hungry world and the truth is, an P80 million donation deserves all the publicity it gets.

Which is what the P80-million financial package Smart gave to the Philippine Football Federation got when it was announced in January, 2011.

Which brings me back to my question:  What would you do if you have P80 million for Philippine football?

We have to ask that question again because I think Smart’s money is wasted on not-so-smart ways.

It was supposed to be for a domestic league, but since the Philippines already had the UFL (by the way, when they announced the donation, Smart didn’t know about the UFL), it evolved into the Smart Club Championships, which is just a glorified name of the PFF Men’s Open.
And, judging by the initial staging, the Smart Club Championships—Global, Stallions, Pachanga and the Phil Younghusband-led Rizal—making the semis, the Smart Club championships sort of became a UFL Cup.

“We aim to institutionalize the PFF-Smart Club Championships to promote the development of football clubs all over the country,” Smart’s Epok Quimpo said last year. “By next year we hope that the clubs will be able to bolster their rosters and have more of them  competing in this annual event. Definitely, this tournament will be even bigger and better in 2012.”

It’s July, 2012 and definitely, there’s no word of a “bigger and better” Smart Club championship. I heard Global, which won last year’s title, has yet to receive the P100,000 cash that was promised them. 

It’s July 2012, the UFL Cup and Super Cup will start in a few months, so too, will the Azkals’ five-month preparation for the Suzuki Cup, which means clubs won’t have the star power it will have to attract none-hardcore fans if they join the Smart Club Championships. The scheduling, too, would be a bitch.

It’s just Year Two of the P80 million program and I think it’s best if Smart revisits its financial package.

If it still wants to support club football, I think they’ll have a better reception if they focus on a tournament that won’t involve the UFL Division 1 clubs.  A national tourney for the Division 2 teams, plus the rest of the club teams in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao would be just as competitive.

And the prize?  Smart bankrolling the champion team’s stint in the UFL Cup or Super Cup.  (Not the league, as it means, the winning team has to commit for more than a year.)

Or Smart can let the UFL take care of the clubs and help where it will matter most—the U14 and U16 national teams.  These two teams will be the backbone of our senior team in a few years and the U14, judging from a stint in Japan, has been doing quite well.

P8 million a year to fund a regular and steady campaign abroad will give these players what PFF technical director Aries Caslib wanted—“A chance to experience the football culture that our European-based Pinoys experienced.”

Smart did that with Gilas and will be doing that with Gilas 2.0, bankrolling a team of promising youngsters that will take the Philippines back to the Olympic stage.  

One colleague estimates Smart’s involvement with Gilas at P200 million and I believe P8 million for the U14 would lead to huge dividends come the 2021 SEA Games. 

So, what would you do if you have P80 million?


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