By Ivan Saldajeno
MAKATI--Off-field drama ensued right on the eve of the start of the Philippine Premier League season when both Stallion Laguna and Global Makati announced that they will not participate in the said domestic football calendar.
"Our lawyers advised us today not to participate, because they don't recognize the PPL," Mark Jarvis, the owner of Global Makati, said in a joint press conference with Stallion Laguna president and head coach Ernie Nierras on Friday night at the Gilligan's Restaurant in Greenbelt.
For his club's part, Nierras said that Laguna opted out of signing the needed participation agreement for a team to join this season, citing several reasons.
"One is that the PPL never answered our financial questions and concerns," the fiery mentor said, even claiming that Bernie Sumayao, the league commissioner, gave the Binan-based side an "unapproved" agreement to be signed, which Nierras declined to do so.
Nierras added that the reverting of the competition format from the home-and-away format of the Philippines Football League to the centralized venue format, which was used by the United Football League and its other predecessors, remains a concern for Laguna.
"We're not in agreement with that because the professional league in the Philippines is a qualification for the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) [competitions], and per AFC rules, the matches should be home-and-away," he further said, reiterating about his squad's memorandum of agreement with the City Government of Binan, in which the club will play its home games at the Binan Football Stadium.
"We do not intend to ruin our relationship with our fans, sponsors, supporters, and especially the city of Binan," Nierras added.
He then lashed at Sumayao for the late incorporation of the league to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"How can you start the league at the end of March when the PPL was only incorporated on March 15? They only got their SEC documents on March 15. They submitted the league rules and the participation agreement in March. This is very unprofessional," Nierras continued.
The PPL was initially slated to kick off on March 30 but was moved a month later to give way to the reapplication of the club licenses for Mendiola and Air Force.
However, Jarvis claimed that the said sides are still denied of club licenses.
"[In] a letter that we just received this afternoon, Mendiola have not been approved. Air Force are disallowed," Jarvis said upon reading the letter.
Laguna was initially scheduled to face Kaya-Iloilo on Saturday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila with both clubs already promoting their match on social media and even on national television.
But in the official announcement of the opening night twinbill, Kaya-Iloilo will instead face old UFL rival Air Force.
"Our team manager Samantha [Nierras] got a call from Ritchie Gannaban saying that Stallion was removed from the schedule because we have not paid the participation fee," Ernie Nierras bared his side of the sudden schedule change, reiterating anew about the participation agreement that "hasn't been approved yet by the [Philippine Football] Federation."
However, Jarvis said that the Iloilo-Air Force match-up slated for a 7:15 p.m. kick-off Saturday night and the 4 p.m. curtain-raiser between Green Archers United and Mendiola could put the league in peril.
"Any game that will be performed this weekend will be illegal," he claimed.
Nierras then added, "We have no confidence whatsoever in the ability of Bernie Sumayao in running the league.... We will only in a professional league that is sanctioned by the Philippine Football Federation."