by SHAHRUKH SOHAIL of footballpakistan.com
Just when you thought Pakistan Football Federation was going in the right direction, having brought in young professionals in its administration and gained praise from the recent visit of a FIFA delegation, the PFF just shot itself in the foot.
This week saw five office bearers tender resignations, with one of them being Agha Ajmal; the Media Manager. Whilst there are two different versions of the story, with the PFF stressing that likes of Agha saw better opportunities elsewhere and junior members were shown the door as part of restructuring process. Sources close to the people leaving the PFF said they were asked to tender their resignations as the Federation starts a cost-cutting campaign in order to balance its books.
A Media division is a key department of any organization and especially of a sport’s national governing body and PFF parting way with Agha Ajmal is baffling because Pakistani football already struggles to compete with Hockey and Cricket in getting space in the national print and electronic media. Agha, who served less than 2 years as Media Manager, had done a good job of making the most of his limited resources, considering he had not come from sports background. He learnt quickly at the job and started to get Pakistani football into the mainstream media once again after the passing away of Akbar Wahidi who was a maverick and pioneer in this field.
Agha Ajmal had introduced a new system at PFF and his media policy was appreciated by the recently visiting FIFA delegation and he was working towards bringing Pakistani football within social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. He had also presented the PFF with ideas of offering young students from journalism or media background internships in order to make use of their ambition and passion in spreading the game, whilst educating the young journalists about football and providing them valuable industry related experience. Agha had been forced to operate within very tight financial limits and it took him over a year to get a laptop from the Federation to work with.
The seriousness of the PFF can be seen in the sacking of other officials such as Manager of Coach Education and Referee Education, the two other crucial components of the sport apart from players. As coaching numbers continue to be very low in Pakistan, there needs to be mass campaign to educate more number of coaches and this removal shows otherwise.
Same is the case with the referees department, while the refereeing standard is improving, it is still far behind many Asian countries and there are regular complaints from PPFL teams that standard is poor and referees need more development. Even in recent years there have been allegations in the press that referees have been involved in match fixing within PPFL and favoring particular teams. So to see such departments within PFF go without the right staff is shocking because how can PFF claim to be taking the sport forward when it is cutting people left right and centre.
Apart from any organizational restructuring, the reason given by many within PFF is that lack of finance, therefore such sacking is necessary to balance the books. It is a known fact that PFF operates on shoestring budget, with FIFA and AFC already providing maximum grants and the National Government not taking any interest. However the National Government did provide a 20million Rs grant in 2011 for the appointment of national team coach, which is mainly being spent on him.
The Pakistan Football Federation last year removed senior director finance, director youth development followed by the entire marketing department with junior staff getting extra charge. How can a federation generate funds to survive or expand its activities when there is no marketing department and the marketing consultants operate on commission and event basis just like missionaries.
If PFF is to take proper restructuring to cut costs maybe it could enforce wage cuts on its higher paid members which could result in savings of handsome amount which could then be used to retain the services of these junior employees and likes of Agha Ajmal as Media Manager. How can a Manager Development run a Media Department? The sports journalists who cover Pakistani football on a regular basis expressed their disappointment on how a hard-working official was asked to leave without any question mark on his performance. Agha had formed a good understand with the media in giving Pakistani football good coverage, he would provide results of domestic leagues and tournaments instantly in order to get maximum exposure.
So without a functioning marketing department, media department, coach and referee education department, the PFF is digging itself a deep hole and it will not sit well with FIFA and AFC who want to see professionalism and financial stability. Once again the Federation laying off hard working staff while those failing to generate revenue or uplift the organization continue to enjoy their roles. It seems the real reform and professionalization within PFF is a distant dream.