Wednesday, 17 March 2010

No one likes us..... we don't care

MTU manager Robert Procurer discusses hostility towards his club

This expression is used by various teams in the UK, most notably Millwall and Manchester United. The former because of their historical reputation as being a hooligan's club, and the latter for the fact that, well, it's true.

Muanthong United probably have more in common with Manchester United than Millwall. It's not a coincidence that the two team names seem so similar, and that fact alone could probably give us a clue why Muangthong seem to be attracting some level of resentment amongst their footballing peers.

The club used to be known as Nonjing United (or something similar) and changed their name as a marketing ploy. Not long after this - as well as a take over by Siam Sport -  the club won two successive promotions and then the Thai Premier League. Crowds soared, revenues went through the roof.

All this was handled well by Procurer and his fellow co-owner. The revenue went on new players, the marketing boosted local support.  That boost was all the greater for the fact that it occurred during an explosion of interest in Thai football. In the space of one season the club went from crowds of about five thousand to sell out games with a stadium packed with over 16,000 people. But that increase is not all about fairweather fans, almost every team saw a sharp rise in support last season. It was a nationwide trend.

Unless someone resents successful marketing, then they have no reason to dislike Muangthong for this.

The second detectable reason for dislike is perceived bias from the Thai FA because of Muangthong's links with Siam Sports and the lobbying power in the Thai FA that comes with it. Apparently, some of the message board exchanges between fans of Thai Port and MTU focused on this issue in the run up to the Supalachasalai violence.

Interestingly, BEC Tero also have a similar ownership scheme with media tycoons but no complaints have been made about them recently. Besides as Robert put it in a recent interview: "Siam Sport can't put the ball in the net for us".

In defence of Muangthong, it's clear that some of the dislike towards the club stems from envy. In the same way that many fans of other English teams such as myself wouldn't dislike Man Utd so much if they were in League 2 instead if the EPL, it's clear the likes of BEC, PEA and Chonburi wouldn't have the same dislike of MTU if it were not for the fact that Muangtong have overtaken all of them in the marketing and support stakes.

Robert Procurer is aware of the sentiment and believes his team felt some of the backlash in pre-season. He promises the team will take revenge in the right way; by winning the TPL once again. That's good news for the supporters, who have not had the best pre-season. I, like every other fan, am quite happy to follow the disliked team if that also means following the best team.

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