Thai football league’s early media-rights tender to kick off drive for Asean dominance

Football Association of Thailand president, Somyot Poonpanmoung at the workshop in Bangkok on October 8, 2019. (Football Association of Thailand)

The Thai football league is aiming to be “the centre of football in Southeast Asia”, Football Association of Thailand president Somyot Poompanmoung told SportBusiness yesterday, as the organisation prepared to launch a landmark media-rights tender.

“The ultimate goal is to uplift the level of Thai football to be able to compare with developed countries in Asia and around the world,” Poompanmoung, also a politician and the former Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police, said. The FAT, which governs the league, wants to build on its position as the strongest competition in the region and make it the destination for the best players from across Southeast Asia.

Poompanmoung said: “When you think about playing abroad, if you’re a player in Asean you should think about Thailand as your destination. This will in turn create value and interest, not only for football fans, but for surrounding businesses to in turn provide benefits for the clubs and the players.” The league has historically restricted the number of overseas players its teams can field, but in recent seasons relaxed restrictions on the number of Asean players allowed.

Alongside attracting talent, Poompanmoung is pushing the league to modernise, commercially and organisationally. Next week, the FAT will launch a domestic and international media-rights tender for its properties, covering the eight years from 2021 to 2028. It is being advised on the process by the experienced Asian media-rights executives Iqbal Maricar and Nick Wilkinson, working in tandem with the Octagon sports marketing agency.

The tender will include rights to the Thai League 1, 2, 3 and 4, the FA Cup, the League Cup, the national futsal league, the men’s and women’s national teams, and the futsal national teams.

The FAT is offering its rights for an eight-year term for the first time. Previous cycles were shorter – the current deal with main league rights-holder TrueVisions, the pay-television broadcaster, is for the four years from 2017 to 2020. The league and its advisors hope the longer term will increase the value to potential buyers, and also secure a partner that will accompany the league on a broader revamp.

League and club representatives are attending a workshop in Bangkok today and yesterday, at which they are being encouraged by the president to consider moves to increase the commercial and brand value of their properties. The league’s competition structure, fixture scheduling, social media strategy and decision-making processes are among the topics being discussed. Case studies are being presented by European football executives including Shaun Harvey, the ex-chief executive of the English Football League, and Joost de Wit, the former managing director of Dutch club Vitesse.

The media-rights tender is being launched more than a year before the next cycle begins to give the FA, clubs, league and potential media-rights partners time to map out the eight years ahead.

Announcing the media rights tender, Poompanmoung has said: “It is very important that we secure the financial future of the FAT and all of our assets, from youth football to the National Teams, to the clubs in the Thai leagues. This tender will go a long way to addressing the financial concerns, not just for today or for the next few years, but for the long term. We need to be able to plan over a long term and that’s the only way we can succeed, knowing we have the financial muscle to deliver all the projects that we plan for the clubs, the league, the National Teams, and for infrastructure and social programs…This 8-year cycle will set us on a path unprecedented in the history of Thai football.”

SportBusiness conducted an exclusive interview with Somyot Poompanmoung covering the FAT’s ambitions for the development of the Thai leagues. It will be published in the coming days.