An eight-month study done by the local office of AC Nielsen says a countrywide professional league will foster support for football and the national team known popularly as the Azkals.
Nielsen is a market research firm whose business is knowing what people watch and buy in over 100 countries. It thinks that a national tournament of 10 to 12 teams and patterned after the United Football League, the existing local professional league based in Metro Manila, is possible.
Commissioned by the Philippine Football Federation along with a task force led by respected economist Bernardo Villegas, the analysis and its final outcomes will be unveiled pretty soon.
But PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta says implementation “will have to wait until we are absolutely ready.”
Araneta has read some of the qualitative and quantitative results of the Nielsen paper and promptly reports the highlights.
According to Araneta, Nielsen concedes that basketball remains the top spectator sport in the country, followed by volleyball, with football happily tagging along as the third choice of sports followers.
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Out of 100 million Filipinos, 40 million are true-blue sports fans. About 17 percent are basketball buffs, 8 percent are volleyball followers and 5 percent are football loyalists, reports Nielsen.
Basketball and volleyball remain the 1-2 choice of television watchers of spectator sports. Interestingly, the study shows that football is making headway on the boob tube.
While 56 percent of Filipino football fans watch programs featuring their game on TV, this number jumps to 93 percent when they tune in to live tournaments from England and elsewhere.
Equally, the percentage of diehards watching local football live on TV surges from 3 to 34 percent when the Azkals are playing.
Araneta says the report points to several cities with existing football stadiums that can accommodate at least 5,000 fans; can put up and support franchises for a national league; and with solid fan foundations that can afford to go and watch games and buy team apparel and other gear.
These are Quezon City, Makati City and still unnamed cities in Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite in Luzon; the cities of Cebu, Iloilo and Bacolod in the Visayas; and the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga in Mindanao.
Araneta said an official of Fifa, football’s world governing body, will arrive shortly, if he is not here already, to assist the PFF in its fresh endeavor to attract the backing of more fans.
Although football is the game with the largest fan following in the world, it has failed to attract large crowds locally, a situation that has frustrated the PFF for the longest time.