New Shah Alam Stadium: Status quo with a new home, as vicious cycle is sustained

15 Jul 2022 08:01pm
An aerial view of Shah Alam Stadium
An aerial view of Shah Alam Stadium

The imminent fate of the Shah Alam Stadium, with the Selangor government seemingly intent on pushing their justification for a total demolition and rebuild despite heavy criticism, simply exemplifies the predicament Malaysian sport has been stuck in for too long - political patronage.

No matter how much sports fans and critics debate the matter, its history, legacy or sentimental value, at the end of the day it will be down to a bunch of men and women in suits and their management of rhetorics.

They will in the end justify how they plan to "add commercial value and opportunities" when they had failed to do so for 28 years of the existing facility, not to mention the devastation caused by failure to simply maintain its upkeep, so badly that an RM250 million bill had to be proposed for its refurbishment.

Funny, but politicians, particularly those with the nation's largest state coffers at their mercy, will always find a way to push through their projects.

It is simply not worth comparing Shah Alam Stadium, purportedly the home of Selangor FC, to that of the mega clubs of Europe.

While Selangor may have an illutrious history on the football pitch it is quite clear they, along with the majority of clubs in the league system, are merely tenants at their so-called home grounds. None, apart from Johor Darul Ta'zim FC can actually call their stadium their own.

Even a spanking new replacement of the Shah Alam Stadium would still mean it is at the mercy of maintenance projects and management contracts dished out by the state governement or its relevant agency and thus it will not end the viscious cycle that brought it to this point.

To get out of that vicious cycle, the groundwork had supposedly been laid since 2016.

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The Malaysian Football League (MFL) was supposed to have brought about a more professional and commercialised structure which should give clubs a platform to embrace corporatisation and extricate themselves out of the clutches of political patronage by becoming independent, responsible and accountable.

This would, by vision, result in clubs developing their value, eventually becoming commercial entities that not only are capable of developing and growing their own finances, but contributing to state coffers rather than being a burden.

Played correctly, Malaysian football clubs could be on the path towards becoming at least a fraction of what the multi-billion dollar European mega clubs are in terms of commercial machinery and value.

Executed well it wouldn't be far fetched to imagine some day that self-sufficient Malaysian clubs would be able build and own their own stadia and training facilities.

But the ideal outcome for this plan has thus far been far fetched with much left to be desired.

While Selangor remains "homeless" due to the state of disrepair of Shah Alam Stadium, football fans continue to feast on issues of multiple clubs saddled with unpaid salaries and power struggles between privatisation and state government strangleholds.

Thus, while the demolition and redevelopment of the Shah Alam Stadium funded by the Selangor state government may serve a multitude of other purposes, it does not solve Selangor FC's woes as far as their home venue is concerned.

The new stadium would still not be theirs and their tenancy too would likely sustain the grip of political patronage over the club, a scenario that isn't any different from the existing one that began with them playing in the largest, most advanced stadium in the country in 1994 and ended with them being shut out of a majestic eyesore.

While Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari stated the plan would be to revitalise the area with commercially viable facilities in line with current trends, similar to the plan laid out by the then Menteri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib upon the stadium's opening in 1994.

The Shah Alam Stadium's fate is as good as sealed.

Selangor FC too will remain trapped in the same vicious cycle, with their future home venue's upkeep, its maintenance and importantly groundkeeping, remaining at the mercy of state budget limitations that brought about the Shah Alam Stadium's woes to begin with.

The plan may serve many purposes as far as Amirudin is concerned, but on a sporting note it will be status quo given a new home for Selangor FC.

This debacle should also serve as a case study for other clubs as they look to develop self-sufficience and sever the umbillical chord connected to political patronage to finally begin building their own industry.

ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL is a sportswriter, media consultant and former South East Asia representative of the International Association of Cycling Journalists (AIJC).

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