30 January 2013

It`s more fun in the provinces : Can UFL push its brand of football outside Metro Manila ?

Karl Decena, InterAKTV

As a new football fan, Maricar Topular, 22, first ignored General Trias International FC. The team from her hometown was composed entirely of South Korean students living General Trias who happened to play football.
But by the time the team crashed the quarterfinals of the United Football Cup, falling to eventual champion Stallion FC in a dramatic encounter, Topular had become a General Trias diehard.
“Hindi ko kilala yung players pero sobrang cheer ako and nung natalo sila, ambigat sa puso,” she said, adding that the squad carrying her province’s name made it easier for her to cheer for it.
“I can definitely identify with them kahit nga ‘di sila Pinoy eh.”
Topular thinks it’s about time the UFL brought the country’s top football league to the provinces to make it more exciting — not just for fans, but for players as well.
Since it was established in 2009, the UFL has catered mainly to fans in Metro Manila, where most of its players, teams, and sponsors are based.
But many fans feel there is an untapped market in the provinces that the league ought to look at. While football culture is fairly new for fans in basketball-crazy Manila, many regions around the country are hotbeds for the beautiful game.
In fact, prior to the entry of Azkals with foreign lineage, most members of the Philippine national men’s football team traced their roots to hotbeds such as Barotac Nuevo in Iloilo, Bacolod City, and Cebu, among other places.
Earlier this month, a provincial team from Bacolod advanced to the finals of the Philippine Football Federation-SMART National Club Championship, upsetting highly-touted teams from the UFL. The reigning UFL Cup champion Stallion has roots in Iloilo, while the league’s second division features the province-based Cebu Queen City United, whose players and officials fly to Manila regularly to compete in matches.
Philippine football legend Elmer Lacknet Bedia believes the UFL should explore expanding nationwide to be able to promote the sport further.
“I think it should be done by next year bringing UFL outside Manila,” said Bedia, a Barotac Nuevo native who now works with Team Philippines to the Homeless World Cup as a consultant.
“It should be done home-and-away basis or else, the UFL won’t get any farther.”
With football luring more supporters and the UFL having a television deal with sports channel AKTV, the strategy could work, according to Bedia.
“I suppose with the sponsorship of every club, they are ready 100 percent,” he said.
But having home-and-away format for matches could lead a logistical nightmare for the UFL, according to the league’s marketing manager Coco Torre.
“As you know, the Philippines may not have abundance in quality pitches,” he said. “It will also be a challenge as the UFL is still a semi-pro league, meaning some players do still have their regular jobs. Perhaps a conflict on their personal schedules.”
PBA format
Sun.Star Cebu editor Mike Limpag, a longtime Philippine football observer who helped coin the “Azkals” nickname for the national team, said that while a home-and-away format may not be ideal for the UFL, the league could look to the model used by the PBA to promote football throughout the country.
“The best way to bring the matches in the province, I think, would be to follow the PBA format. Have games in provinces where clubs have a strong following — say Dondon Hontiveros’ or June Mar Fajardo’s teams in Cebu matches,” said Limpag.
“For the UFL, the Stallions, Global, Kaya, and Loyola have great following in the Visayas. A game involving any of these clubs would be a hit.”
Limpag adds that the UFL could coordinate with local football associations for matches to be played during the popular festivals in the country. For example, a “Sinulog Derby” between Cebu Queen City and another Division Two squad will be a big hit for Cebuanos during the festivities.
“One advantage of this is that the schedules of these festivals are fixed. Almost a year in advance, the UFL can negotiate early, or if it falls in the regular season, plan early which teams can play.”
Limpag believes that tapping the football market in the provinces will help sustain the league in the long run.
“The UFL is already the country’s premier league, and the UFL — not the success of the Azkals in international campaigns — will determine whether football in the Philippines [can thrive],” he said.
“It’s all about getting fans and, perhaps, sponsors, outside of Manila feel involved.”
In the works
Bringing UFL closer to people in the province is one of the objectives of the league in the near future, according to league president Randy Roxas.
“It’s definitely the direction the league wants to take. Having provincial games will help spur the growth of the league and the grassroots development program,” he said.
Torre said that the UFL are now working with AKTV for the possibility of having some games played in some provinces.
Stallion coach Ernie Nierras doesn’t see UFL matches outside Metro Manila anytime soon.
“At this time, I do not see that happening on a regular basis. I think the UFL will need to address certain things closer to home. Administrative improvements, officiating and venue upgrades, as well as logistical concerns with our schedules,” said Nierras.
“But these are signs of growth within the UFL.”
For a UFL follower like Topular, she hopes the league realizes its dream in playing more matches outside Metro Manila.
“Para ma-promote yung league, mas okay na may mga provincial games. It will definitely create awareness,” she said. “Feel ko naman basta football-related, open-minded yung mga taga-province.”



  1. True.. Why not. A good star will be in the second division where a provincial team is playing, the Cebu Queen City United? Play all the away games in Cebu? After all its just one game for each of the teams in the second division, affordable, i guess.. After all if Cebu Queen City United FC can travel to Manila for all its 18 games, why not travel to Cebu once for each of the other teams? This in turn will expand the fan base of the UFL, and could entice the other qualified teams in Visayas and Mindanao to soon join the UFL. This in turn could be mutually beneficial to all parties, UFL, InterAKTv and the home team? Why not? Really? Hello UFL, welcome to the provinces....

  2. For a start, bring some matches to the province like cebu, bacolod, iloilo, dumaguete, dipolog, davao, cagayan de oro and key cities i luzon where football is hot. Stallions are ilonggos so a match between them and any of the top 4 would be
    a big hit. Cuaresma and loyola are from dumaguete and play for loyola, so a matbg between them and kaya would be great there. Global has barbaso who is from dipolog, so any global game there would sell. Make the tv sched 3x a week(tue, thurs & sat). Improve the quality of the tv coverage.

  3. Improve AKTV signals. They have bad receptions in the provinces.

  4. As for now hindi pa cguro feasible ang home and away sa UFL but the long term goal should be this one because we cannot go forward without the presence of passionate fans in every regions. In metro manila alone the bleachers of Rizal Sports is not even half full but is half empty every time a regular match is played with the perks of free admission for the public. So, we have to ralize that in the provinces even if they have only 1,000 fans but the seats are all taken then its definitely something worth investing for businessmen and a good view for TV audiences where people are so passionate with their teams and they kept on singing from kick off to final whistle. This would only happen to the home teams of provincial areas and people will always cheer for their hometown heroes even if they have to pay P50- P100 each for the entrance and this could be a start of a big football business all around the country as many people could benefit from a football event.
    We cannot copy the PBA format forever we need to copy the likes of Europe and the rest of the world.

  5. The UFL can also set a match in San Carlos City(the PFF satellite office)where many football players and coaches have come from including Pasilan, Panhay , Canedo and Pasinabo. There the people are so passionate in Football as it shows they have lots of Football fields within the city itself.
    Leyte is one of the places in Visayas that is also becoming a hotbed for football in the future because of Dan Palami and its no wonder when would be the first game of UFL there.

    1. Seriously, Leyte?! Just because of Palami? I have family in Leyte and a house there, but i mean Davao should be next rather than Leyte. No disrespect to Palami, but Leyte isnt ready for UFL, and Davao has good players, and theyve had their own league for years now. Mindanao needs to be represented, not Leyte. Visayas already have several teams, and Mindanao has none. The azkals had training camps in Tacloban just because of Palami, or else they wouldnt even consider Leyte.

    2. last time i checked...NOFA(Negros) crushed leyte 9-1 in the PFF U23 Visayas qualifiers

  6. ABS CBN should support and pick this up and build it the way they dreamed of building the MBA for basketball before.

  7. i say go for it. and charge the provincianos for every ticket. why not?

    and hello? ABS CBN dropped the MBA like a hot potato. I dont want ABS CBN handling UFL affairs. i want them to stay away!