Vietnamese football is poised to enter a new phase after officials on Thursday agreed with club owners that a company is established to manage football leagues.
After heated day-long debates, the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) and 28 owners of the country's top-tier V-League and second-tier First Division clubs agreed to establish the Vietnam Professional Football joint-stock company, or VPF, to replace the current organizing committee of the leagues.
"The history of Vietnamese football has officially turned a new leaf," declared VFF chairman Nguyen Trong Hy.
The meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hanoi was a tense encounter with the club owners "playing attacking football" and putting VFF on the defensive.
Business tycoon Doan Nguyen Duc, who owns the Hoang Anh Gia Lai club, said, "Vietnamese football has gone seriously bad but does VFF dare to make significant changes to its mechanisms, does it dare to make real reforms? We have become fed up with the old-fashioned ways of its bad management.
"The Government has dared to restructure the economy, restructure the badly-run companies. So, why can't VFF restructure things like its league organizing committee, its rule-observing committee and its referees committee?"
Duc said he has never wanted to quit football but he would leave V-League soon if VFF doesn't reform. And he said the reforms must be initiated as soon as possible.
Duc noted that he invests in football in Laos, Cambodia and in England, but wasn't allowed to do the same with V-League.
If things are not well-organized now, Duc said, the coming 2012 season should be delayed because it shouldn't be organized while things are still in a mess.
Duc said they [club owners] don't want to betray VFF, but they can't let [VFF's] bad management continue as it has been for year after year.
Duc said clubs want a new face for Vietnamese football rather than just replacing some individual officials in VFF management to appease the public.
Nguyen Chi Kien, owner of Ho Chi Minh City club, said, "It' true that I have been doing football business but I have no idea where it goes. It's been very painful because we haven't been able to build a brand for Vietnamese football, causing sponsors to stay away. If necessary, the league should be delayed for one season."
Dong Tam Long An club owner Vo Quoc Thang said, "I have wanted to quit football several times but people would describe me as irresponsible; and I've decided to stay but I don't know what the future of Vietnamese football will be like."
Nguyen Duc Kien, owner of Hanoi ACB club, said, "VFF is not a scarecrow" to frighten clubs. VFF is neither the body that gives orders to clubs nor is it a State management agency. Now, 14 clubs in V-League spend a total VND1,000 billion (some US$48 million) per year but the image of Vietnamese football is still bad. That is a huge waste of money."
Cooler second half
The club owners later agreed to make plans for the future rather than focus on the negative aspects of about VFF's past operations.
Nguyen Duc Kien presented a pretty detailed plan of a project to establish VPF which he said he had spent two hours making, and then discussed it with other owners for an hour.
"I've studied operations of league management companies in different countries and not one of them is a failure. My project will not only make profits for clubs and the VFF, but other people like supervisors and referees will also benefit from it. A referee will get a monthly salary of VND30 million."
The plan and unanimous agreement from the clubs prompted VFF officials including chairman Nguyen Trong Hy to put off the backburner their own new plan for managing the V-League, including appointing a manager for the league management committee.
Pham Van Tuan, Deputy Director General of the General Department of Physical Training and Sports, said, "I don't think VFF officials are conservative people.
"It's just that they haven't been able to keep up with the growth trend of Vietnamese football because of some binding regulations. Sometimes, people have to pay dearly in the process of development so that Vietnamese football will grow faster.
"VFF will need to deal with the roots of the problems [of its past mistakes] rather than just the problem of the league management committee.
"The General Department [of Physical Training and Sports] undertakes to provide support and create favorable conditions for VFF's positive changes, including the birth of VPF. It is high time VFF and club owners became one and made profits together."
Under the plan, VPF will have a charter capital of VND22 billion and operate under the Corporate Law while complying with VFF and FIFA regulations.
VPF will hold general meetings of shareholders who will appoint the Board of Directors comprising nine to 11 members. The ratio of VFF's representative to clubs' representatives on the board will be 35:65.