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The main commercial activities of Pakistan Football Federation
At the given moment, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has very few opportunities for commercial activities, and the financial performance of this organization leaves much to be desired. In order to explain the underlying causes of this situation, we first need to discuss the functioning of Pakistan Premier League (PPL) that was established by PFF. A great number of players, participating in this tournament, are only semi-professionals (PFF, 2010, unpaged); as a result at the attendance of the stadiums is very low. Apart from that, media coverage of Pakistani Premier League is also insufficient, and this sport receives very little attention of the community (FootballPakistan.Com, 2010, unpaged).
Therefore, both clubs and PFF cannot earn sufficient profit through ticket sales. More importantly, neither local nor international channels want to purchase the rights to broadcast the matches of PPL. It should be borne in mind that the sales of television rights to broadcast are one of the largest sources of revenue for many European clubs (Stewart, 2006, p 68), while Pakistani clubs do take full advantage of this opportunity. We also need to mention that the majority of football clubs in PPL are not independent; as a rule, they represent a certain company or organization such as the Army (PFF, 2010, unpaged). This is why they have very little stimulus to boost their financial performance because any football club that continuously receives funding from another organization (in this case, it is a governmental agency), does not feel any necessity to improve its financial operations and become more profitable as an enterprise.
Another obstacle that we should not overlook is that these clubs are little known at the international level, and foreign broadcasting companies as well as fans are not very interested in their successes or failures. Besides, one should not forget that football is not the most popular kind of sports in Pakistan, and people are more willing to spend time and money on cricket (Deady, 2001, p 19). This is another reason why it PFF has very few chances for commercial activities. Poor financial results of PFF can also be explained by the fact that Pakistanis have an opportunity to watch foreign championships such as English Premier League, La Liga, Seria A and so forth, and local championship cannot stand the comparison with them. Many of Pakistani clubs cannot sign sponsorship contracts because private companies do not believe that such investment will bring any dividends to them. These are some of the barriers that do not allow to transform Pakistani football into a brand, enjoying demand among various stakeholders.
The situation with Pakistan National Football Team is very similar. This team has never played in FIFA World Cup or Asian Cup (PFF, 2010, unpaged), and it receives sufficient support only from local fans who want to buy the branded goods associated with this team. In this case, the term branded goods refers mostly to T-shirts and scarves. In turn, international fans know virtually nothing about them.
It is quite possible for us to argue that football in Pakistan has yet to become commercialized. To some extent, it can be ascribed to the absence of any successes at international level. As it has been pointed out earlier, a great number of players are not engaged in football on a full-time basis. Each of these factors prevents Pakistan Football Federation from becoming a commercially successful organization. However, one should not presume that there is no way to break this deadlock as the current President of PFF, Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh already tries to tries to popularize this sport in the country and make it more professional by inviting quality players from abroad (PFF, 2010, unpaged). Yet, this policy was put into execution only several years ago, and at this point, it only begins to produce results.
The potential to develop commercial activities
In this section of the paper I would like to discuss the potential of Pakistan Football Federation to develop commercial activities. The first and arguably is to make changes to the structure of Pakistan Premier League (PPL). At this point, this tournament gives room for fourteen teams and this number is too high. One should take it into consideration that in early nineties, many football associations, for example, in England, Italy, or Spain were forced to reduce the number of teams, participating in the top division (Stewart, 2006, p 39). The main purpose of this reduction was to improve the overall quality of football and make disparities among top-division teams less noticeable. Certainly, this policy will also widen the gap between the top league and the lower divisions but this is a necessary measure in a situation like this one. The key objective that has to be achieved is to enhance competition among the teams of PPL. This will subsequently enable Pakistan Football Federation to increase attendance at Pakistani stadiums and attract at least local investors that will be willing to become sponsors of Pakistani clubs. Another goal which this change has to attain is to attract local TV broadcasters to this tournament.
It is too early to make any far-fetched arguments, but maybe, this strategy would also improve the performance of Pakistani teams at an international level. In particular, we need to speak about AFC (Asian Football Federation) Champions League. Successful performance in this tournament can boost the development of Football in Pakistan. Another important issue that we should not overlook is the title of Pakistani football championship. It is called Premier League and this name is particularly reminiscent to English Premier League. The problem is that this comparison does not speak in favor of Pakistani football.
In addition to that, the football clubs of this country should receive a higher degree of autonomy. Nowadays, they are dependent on the organizations they represent. For instance, we may remember such clubs as Pakistan Army or Pakistan Railways (PFF, 2010, unpaged). To a great extent, they are just mere departments of these organizations. In fact, in the majority of European countries departmental clubs either ceased to exist or turned into private organizations. The thing is that a football club cannot and should not rely on external financing in order to develop infrastructure as this organization will not be able to make any progress.
Apart from that, one should not forget about the Pakistan National Football Teams. It is of the crucial importance that this team is able to play against the best national sides in Asia, South America, and Europe. Certainly, in order to organize such a match, PFF would have to make considerable expenses because it will be necessary to pay a substantial fee to the football associations of such countries as Brazil, Italy, Germany, or Spain. However, friendly matches against such rivals would definitely attract attention to this sport and make football more popular in the country. In the long term, such strategy may increase attendance at Pakistani stadiums.
However, none of these strategies would be of any avail, unless the PFF attempts to improve the quality of training in the country. The most critical challenge, faced by PFF is that many of its players and coaches cannot meet the international standards of performance because they have never had a chance to play at this level. This is why PFF should enable local players and managers to learn training techniques and methods, used in Europe or South America. The long-term goal of these strategies is to transform football in Pakistan into a trademark that would look attractive to both domestic and foreign sponsors.
The development of PR campaign, related to commercial activities
The commercial success of football in Pakistan is utterly impossible without proper PR campaign. Pakistan Football Federation needs to create a new image of this sport in the country. First of all, they should address Pakistani football fans via print media, television and Internet (Theaker, 2004). The main message should convince people that the new structure of Pakistani Premier League will lead to a genuine qualitative breakthrough. It may also be prudent to film a TV commercial, showing that football in Pakistan has already passed through the period of stagnation.
In this case, we can single out various stakeholders that can boost commercial activities of Pakistan Football Federation. The first group of stakeholders includes football fans and those people who are interested in several sports, for instance, cricket and grass hockey. These stakeholders should be contracted through television, radio, and newspapers (Beech & Chadwick, 2006), The Marketing of Sport Prentice Hall). As it has been noted before, they must be convinced that Premier Football League has been changed in terms of quantity and quality. The second group of stakeholders is various businesses. They may be willing to advertise their products and services on billboards, located near stadiums or within the stadiums. Furthermore, they can sign sponsorship contracts with some of the teams. Pakistan Football Federation should send official letters to them that would explain the benefits of investing into this sport.
The third group of stakeholders includes international corporations. Many of them want to enter Pakistani markets, and they may be willing to film commercials with Pakistani football players. One of the most common examples is Coca Cola. It has to be admitted that in the majority of cases, they hire only internationally-known football players, who have already made considerable achievements in this sport. Nonetheless, very often, they use the services of local football stars who are known only within a certain country. These examples illustrate how PFF should communicate with various stakeholders and how these stakeholders can raise the profitability of Pakistan Football Federation.
In addition to that, Pakistan Football Federation should make everything to keep people’s interest in this sport. They need to broadcast the best goals, scored during each of the rounds (Desbordes, 2007, 188). One of the underlying causes of poor commercial performance of PFF is the inability to advertise Pakistani football. The most surprising thing is that many people in the country are actually unaware of the fact that there are some quality Pakistani players, who can really turn football into a spectacle. As a result, they tend to underestimate the entire Pakistani football. This is the reason why broadcasting of the best goals is so important for the needs of PFF. More importantly, it is vital that people are made more aware about the matches of Pakistan Premier League. They must know about the date of these fixtures and the locations where they will be held. It is also of the crucial importance that tickets are made affordable and accessible to football fans. They should be distributed through various sales outlets, and while setting the price, PFF should take into account the purchasing power of Pakistani people and their sports preferences. In other words, they need to know exactly how much people are ready to pay for the ticket and what they expect from this purchase.
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The similar principle should be applied to the games of Pakistan National Football Team. People throughout the country should be made aware of the successes of this team, their best players and best matches. Their matches should attract the widest target audience. Football fans from every region of the country must have an opportunity to attend their matches. It is vital that these fixtures are advertised via television, radio, Internet, print, and billboards (Kitchens, 1997). Each of these communication channels has to be used in order to attract attention of the vast target audience. Again, we have to emphasize an idea that each of these strategies can bring improvements into commercial activities of PFF, only there will be a genuine breakthrough in the quality of Pakistani football. Without it football fans, who set very high standards for clubs and national team, will be disappointed by this discrepancy between what that they want to see and what Pakistani football can offer them. Therefore, the most important strategic objective of PFF is to raise the quality of players, otherwise numerous PR campaigns will be of little or no avail.
Overall, judging from this discussion we can single out several obstacles that hinder commercial development of Pakistan Football Federation: 1) low levels of awareness and interest toward football in the country; 2) financial dependence of the majority of football clubs; 3) inappropriate structure of the Pakistani Premier League; 4) inability to advertise football as a product; 5) lack of professional players. These findings indicate that only a complex set of measures can enable to PFF to fulfill its commercial potential. At this point, it is possible for us to single out the following strategies that can help to remove these barriers: 1) to open football schools that would raise professional football players; 2) to reduce the number of teams, participating in the first division as this can raise competitiveness in the league; 3) to increase people’s awareness of football in the country; 5) to better advertise Pakistani football, for example, by broadcasting the best goals of the round or of the season. These policies need to be implemented by Pakistan Football Federation. Finally, one should take it into account that they can yield results only in the long term, approximately ten or fifteen years, and these are the most favorable estimations.
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Desbordes. M. 2007. Marketing and football: an international perspective. Oxford. Butterworth-Heinemann.
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Pakistan Football Federation. (2010) The Official Website. Web.
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Theaker, A. (2004), Public Relations Handbook. NY: Routledge Limited