Some talking points before the Philippines Football League launch

The Philippines Football League (PFL) is set for a grand launch on April 21 for what is deemed to be the first professional league for football in the country. Here are some key talking points of the upcoming league prior to its launch.

What is the PFL?

For the benefit of readers outside of Philippine Football, the PFL is a professional football league in the Philippines that will be considered the highest level of mens football competition in the country. The league will see eight participating football clubs from all over the Philippines namely: Ilocos United, JPV Marikina, Kaya FC – Makati, Loyola Meralco Sparks, Stallion Laguna, Global Cebu, Ceres-Negros, and Davao Aguilas.

The eight teams will play a double-round home and away fixture that will see teams play 28 games each where they will play each other four times. The top four teams will will feature in what is called the Final Series where they will compete in home-and-away semifinal legs with the semifinal winners playing in a one game Grand Final. The league will also serve as a qualifier for the Philippines in the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup.

League details? What details?

Fans and the media alike have been in the dark with regard to the specifics of the league. High level information has been provided by PFF leadership regarding the participating teams, competition format, and official tv partner but basic things like the league logo, an initial fixture list, and official media platforms such as a website and facebook page were not made available in advance. Many superfans have resorted to creating their own support pages to generate discussion and even content to hype up the league.

A ‘Philippines Football League – PFL’ page exists but it seems to be made by a fan. I tried to create facebook pages under the Entertainment > Sports League category with the names of ‘Philippines Football League’ and ‘PFL’ and was successful. Also tried to create a duplicate PBA page under the same category but was not allowed to by the platform. My little experiment may not prove much but these little details or lack thereof may be telling. I’ll hold on to the facebook pages temporarily for safekeeping. In the case of match fixtures, they can be delayed given that a deal for broadcast has only been made recently and picking games for broadcast is known to be a difficult exercise. The mention of a logo being included in the launch gives everyone hope that most of the basics would be available come Friday.

The teams are ready to play

The only thing that is assured of in the league from the surface is that all the participating teams are ready to play. Global, Ceres, and Stallion started their pre-season early with the first two teams competing in continental competition. Stallion meanwhile has been the busiest with pre-season matches as early as January, a team and stadium launch, and an invitational tournament that was joined by most teams. Former United Football League teams like JP Voltes, Loyola, and Kaya have ramped up their preparation and tune-up games in the last few months to keep in step of the first three. The two debutantes in Davao Aguilas and Ilocos United seemed to have finalized their pool of players with Ilocos getting more familiar names and Davao doing a training camp with their young core in Singapore.

The teams have also secured their home stadiums, a task that is a feat in itself considering that most of the infrastructure is owned mostly by city and provincial governments. Securing the stadium is only half the problem as the improvements to the infrastructure and most importantly the field of play are necessary. The Marikina Sports Stadium pitch for example needs some improvement as a recent photo showed some areas of dryness and overuse. Most stadiums might also need to meet the minimum security criteria with the exception of Panaad and Rizal Memorial which has already passed stringent AFC standards.

What do we expect from the launch?

The official invite of the event describes it as the ‘Official Launch and Draw Ceremony’ of the Philippines Football League. The launch component is expected to provide all the finer details in the league and hopefully answers to the different details mentioned previously. Official league sponsors may also be present in the launch to promote the partnerships who will help bring the league forward.

What has not been mentioned though is the purpose of the draw ceremony. My best guess is that the draw will be the final step to fill-in an already made first round schedule and replace Team Numbers with actual club names. The opening match might be determined by this exercise.

Photo from the United Football League Philippines