UFL creates position of commissioner, appoints bonnie ladridoPosted: September 23, 2012
Olivares, R., September 22, 2012. UFL creates position of Commissioner, appoints Bonnie Ladrido. In United Football League. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from http://www.uflphilippines.com.ph/news-view/1348229570275/bonnie-ladrido-is-the-ufls-new-commish.html
by Rick Olivares
On the eve of the kick-off of the United Football League’s (UFL) second year under its historic television deal with AKTV, we spoke to new league commissioner Bonnie Ladrido about the upcoming season.
The appointment might come as a surprise to casual fans of football but Bonnie, whose career has been in the finance sector, has in recent years worked quietly in the background of the sport. His involvement was first as treasurer of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) and then head of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of the national team’s home matches. Once the LOC found its legs, he let go to help manage Diliman FC in the UFL’s second division.
As the last season wound down, he worked on a voluntary basis with the UFL’s Disciplinary Committee. Now, Bonnie, who likes to think of himself as a “builder of things” takes on the challenging job of steering the country’s top semi-professional league to a whole new level.
True to Bonnie’s behind the scenes nature, I found him all the way in the back of the Starbucks at the old Greenbelt 1 fronting the Asian Institute of Management, quietly observing the world pass him by.
Here are excerpts from my interview with him.
Rick Olivares (RO): UFL Commissioner. How did this come about?
Bonnie Ladrido (BL): The actual discussion started some time back in July when the Football Alliance’s Mike Camahort called me up to set up a meeting with UFL President Randy Roxas.
Before the last season ended, I had been exchanging ideas with Randy and volunteered to help. I had certain suggestions that he and the league were willing to listen to. We continued to share ideas and by the time Mike called it was to broach the idea of becoming the league’s commissioner. We took a couple of weeks to hammer out all the details and we came to an agreement.
Essentially, the Football Alliance has taken the view that the UFL was entering a new stage in its development and wanted to lay the foundation for a stronger organization. While I am commissioner, I report to Randy and the UFL Executive Committee. I will work under their guidance on pretty much everything. We all want to do things right. This also represents the continued growth of the league as it further professionalizes its operations.
RO: We know of your love for the game, was this a cool moment for you considering you used to kick that ball around as an elementary kid?
BL: Let me start to answer that with this – it goes with everything that I do and who I am that if there is a place where I can make a contribution and improve things, I have the tendency to gravitate towards that.
So it’s not necessarily that this is cool, it’s more like “Wow! I get to do something I love to do for football!” This will obviously be a challenge and a lot of work needs to be done but first I need to learn how the organization works, establish priorities and get things done. It is important to undertake this process because the things you see as an outsider may be totally different from what the reality is. The “cool moment” will probably arrive without warning and that will be when you suddenly realize that things are running smoothly -if and when that moment ever comes (laughs).
RO: After working with the PFF and Diliman FC, is there anything that you’ve learned from there that you can transfer to the UFL?
BL: When I began working for the PFF, I forced myself to learn how it worked with the structures that were in place. I also studied how FIFA and the AFC relate to us since that was a time of transition and some controversy. Given the situation, I think that there were very few people who had a firm grounding of the protocols and how to use them. I think this knowledge and experience will be helpful to the UFL in bridging any gaps that may exist between how the league works and making sure we conform to guidelines of the PFF, the NCRFA and the other football regulatory bodies.
For example, there is aligning the league’s schedule with the FIFA/AFC calendar as well as the national team’s games. Many of our leagues and tournaments whether semi-pro or collegiate or even on the grassroots levels run at the same time and at times not aligned at all with the international calendar. That is something that I would like to be able to help address.
As part of Diliman FC, I experienced things from a management and ownership perspective. I got to understand the worries and also some of the “nuts and bolts” of running a club. I also got to interact with coaches and players and learned a little about how they view the game. These experiences will be important because ultimately, the league is all about its teams and its players. The success of the teams and the players will be a necessary component of the league’s success.
RO: What can UFL fans expect this year? Any changes? Tantalize us.
BL: One major change will be the movement of our TV coverage schedule with AKTV from Saturday afternoons to primetime slots (beginning at 5 pm) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is a change that we welcome but will also have to watch carefully. On prime time on weekdays, you reach a different audience. Whether it is good or not remains to be seen. Certainly, for football to gain a wider acceptance, we need to explore the opportunity to be on prime time. But we also have to do our groundwork in promoting the games and not rely on television alone. We will work more with AKTV and the UFL’s own media group to get the league out there.
For the UFL Cup, we will have 28 teams participating including 9 guest teams. We tweaked the format a little bit by starting off with an elimination stage (Stage 1) where the guest teams will have to prove themselves against the UFL’s Division 2 clubs in a knock-out format. The guest teams will have to beat the Division 2 clubs twice to advance to the next round which will be the group stage. The intent is to be able to make sure that these guest teams are competitive when they reach the next stage. This is to hopefully avoid or at least minimize the experience last year when we saw a lot of unsightly match results.
Last year, the UFL also used the Cup as an entryway for the expansion of Division 2. That will not be the case this year. We will retain the same structure of 10 teams in Division 1 and 12 teams in Division 2 for the league competition. We have a few guest teams involved but this is not really expansion. We need to consolidate first. It is always good for teams to settle down first before further expanding. We have to remember that we are working with the same budget as the previous year. Certain things have gone up in cost so we will have to find more ways to be cost effective while achieving greater things.
There will be other innovations that will be introduced to enhance the “fan experience” at our various venues.
RO: Let’s backtrack a bit. Tell us about your background.
BL: I’m from Iloilo so you that gives you some idea about my affinity for football. I played on my school’s varsity football and basketball teams. My contemporaries from Iloilo included Joseph Gensaya (now UFL match commissioner and Iloilo Football Association president), Jimmy Dimzon (who plays and coaches for the Philippine Navy in the UFL), and Jing Jambre (one of our referees) to name a few. I played in my school’s varsity team and went to UP Diliman where I took up Business Administration, I was too intimidated (the provinciano in me) to try out for the UP Varsity because the team then was the defending UAAP champion. They had Coach Rudy del Rosario (former national team player and now Homeless World Cup director), Manny Concio, Pilo Rosell (former national team player), Ebong Joson (aka “The Blue-Haired Fanatic”), Coach “King” Kleng Cacacho and others. Instead I played in the other football leagues on campus as I also decided to concentrate on my academics.
After college I worked for several local and global financial institutions before leaving for the United States in 2000 to get my master’s degree. I stayed in the US for 10 years and worked in New York as an investment banker before eventually establishing my own financial advisory practice in Los Angeles. I came back to the Philippines in 2009 to work for the Ayala Corporation as part of the Corporate Strategy team before ending up with the Manny Pangilinan group.
When I was with the MVP group, we were in a meeting when one senior executive asked, “Who are these Azkals?” We were all waiting for MVP to arrive so we all got into the discussion. From the time I left for the US and my eventual return, I was in a blank state as to local football even up to the 2010 Suzuki Cup. One of the other executives at the meeting quipped, “This is the sport that we should be supporting.” When MVP walked in, we continued the discussion that went on for a while before I had to remind everyone about why we were there – for a business presentation. But the seed was planted and MVP decided to come out to support football initially with a P1 million pledge which eventually led to SMART’s decision to support PFF with a 10-year, P8 million a year financial support commitment.
The group gave me permission to help the PFF on the condition that it be on an unpaid volunteer basis though I was allowed to do so on company time. I came in February of 2011 and put in policies and procedures to streamline and make transparent the financial operations of the PFF. I landed right in the middle of a FIFA financial audit of the PFF which as many of you know, was being investigated for the unauthorized use of funds coming from the FIFA Financial Assistance Programme (FAP).
My current “day-job” is as the Chief Financial Officer of a healthcare delivery company which currently owns and operates 4 hospitals/facilities all over the country and intends to acquire or build at least one new hospital every year for the next 4 years. This is a major undertaking, as you can imagine, but my company has allowed me the opportunity to spend time helping the UFL grow.
RO: With your family in America and the obvious stress of work, how do you deal with this?
BL: One way to manage stress is to find something that you like to do and this includes your work. I have been fortunate to have found a company whose vision I believe in and am passionate about. This allows me to use whatever talent and skills that I have to further something I care about.
My nature is to be a builder. I put in systems and procedures that hopefully stand the test of time and when the time comes to turn it over to someone who will be better than me in running things. My “day-job” allows me to do this. I hope to do the same thing for the UFL. I don’t have to mention that I believe in what the UFL is all about, it’s place in Philippine football and where it is headed.
As you yourself know, the game is not without its politics and the things that come with it. There are times when you get fed up with it and just want to call it a day. Sometimes I delude myself by saying – “forget this, I don’t need this”. From a “making a living” perspective, yes – I don’t need football. Then again, it’s not about the money, it’s about making a contribution and hopefully a difference for the sake of Philippine football. It’s kind of difficult to walk away from that.
So what do I do to remind myself of why I’m doing this? I watch kids play.
Makati, Alabang, Tacloban, Iloilo, Butuan, San Carlos City, Calamba – I don’t care where. I watch kids play because it’s fun, because when you’re a kid it’s all about the game. At some point, for many of these kids it becomes pure unadulterated love of the game with none of the baggage that comes with it later.
I look for opportunities to go where the game is played for the sheer fun and joy of doing it. It reaffirms what I am doing and why I am doing it. No cameras, no big crowds, no overbearing complaints about referees (), no complications – just kids playing.
Then I go back to work.