building a philippine national football league

MAKATI – About a couple of months ago I received a call from Philippine Football Federation (PFF) President Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, Jr. He was calling to ask me to be part of a PFF Task Force which was going to be formed with the mandate of establishing a professional football league in the country. This league is envisioned to be national in scope. The task force would be supported by the Asian Football Confederation with funding coming from FIFA.

It is hard to turn Nonong down. After a discussion of my role as well as relaying to him my limitations primarily the ability to commit time to this project, I accepted the challenge.

On Tuesday this coming week, a roundtable discussion will be held at the Center for Research and Communication (CRC)/UA & P precisely to discuss the formation of this national league. I presume that this will kick off the work of the task force though I have not received notice from the PFF of my appointment nor do I know the rest of the members of the task force. I have heard that a couple of members of the PFF Board of Governors will be on it as well as representative from ABS-CBN (the broadcast partner of the PFF), Gelix Mercader of Football Philippines magazine, PFF Competitions Department head, Cyril Dofitas and UFL President Randy Roxas. The task force will apparently be chaired by former CRC – UA & P President Dr. Bernardo Villegas. i don’t know whether there are others.

credits to owners

credits to owners

I obviously have a vested interest in the task force being successful with my “rumored” membership in it and I would hope that the rest of the Philippine football community would give this group support or at least the benefit of the doubt. Having said that, it seems the composition of the task force is “top-heavy” which leads me to believe (and hope) that most of the work will likely be done by a secretariat or technical working group.

Most people know my heart is in having football take root and grow in the Philippines. Most people know also know that I have no patience for posturing, politics and narrow thinking. While I was (and remain) honored and excited to be invited to be part of this effort, the excitement has now been tempered by the enormity of the task that lies ahead.

In business, the success of any initiative requires buy-in and agreement on the end that is to be achieved. This begins with senior management and the project team. Team members need to trust that all of them have no other agenda other than what is meant to be achieved. It is incumbent upon senior management to ensure this and make sure that the team will mesh and be able to work with each other. So, I am anxious to see whether this task force will be able to come together.

Senior management needs to trust the project team to do its job and leave it alone. The team members need to trust each other so as to allow open and honest dialogue. It is not necessary that each of the team members be of one mind. In fact, it is necessary for success that serious discussions which may include arguments, heated debates and bruised feelings happen. This is healthy but it will only work if team members don’t take things personally and trust that each remains committed to only advancing the end in mind with no consideration for selfish interests. Task force members should understand that their work is bigger than any of them or the task force itself so they can sublimate egos and personal agendas.

After agreeing on the objective, the project team needs to identify the critical tasks that need to be done to achieve the objective. Equally important, they need to determine the resources (financial or otherwise) needed to successfully complete the project. Finally, it is vital that clear and firm timeline from start to finish be set.

The next step would be to actually begin the work. Team members need to always bear in mind that the end product should be complete and comprehensive. Developing, launching and sustaining a national football league is not child’s play. It needs to have serious people who believe in its role in Philippine football working on it.

Should the task force see fit to divide up tasks, each member should remember the complete and comprehensive intent. They should also commit and actually deliver the result of their assigned tasks within the timeline agreed to. It is their obligation to inform the rest of the team of any unforeseen variables which may affect the timeline so that corrective action or adjustments can be made right away.

It is my understanding that this prospective national league should be in place by 2018. This targeted start date will, to a large degree, be determined by how well the League Task Force understands their mandate and how their own timeline will affect the prospective launch date.

Philippine football has been given many chances to take root and develop. It has squandered many of those opportunities. I hope that this does not become another lost opportunity.

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