Philippines Football League both to kick out UFL, off tomorrow

The new and legit national professional football league was launched last April 21 at Shangri-La at the Fort in Taguig City.

THE IDENTITY CRISIS and legitimacy of our national, top-tier and professional football (soccer) league is finally over.
Beginning tomorrow, the new (and de jure) league called Philippines Football League (PFL) will kick out the de facto United Football League (UFL) in the early 2010s.
What went wrong with the latter league? Are there any changes in the competition? What will be the inaugural game plan? Who will be the broadcaster?

What went wrong with the UFL?

UFL was a placeholder league and was not considered as a true national league by international bodies.

Since the Azkals’ AFF Suzuki Cup miracle in 2010 against Vietnam, football in the Philippines has seen its renaissance, the FIFA World Rankings soar and eventually reaching the top among ASEAN member states.

Because of this, the UFL gained the spotlight as the springboard for the national team. Unfortunately, three factors ended up its demise:
  • Most of its teams are based on Metro Manila. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and its continental confederation, Asian Football Confederation (AFC), cannot consider UFL as a true legitimate league as it was under the National Capital Region Football Association (NCRFA).
  • Filipino sports fans want fast action. Despite being a team sport like basketball, football is not a quick sport due to the focus of running and passing the ball than on scoring. Unlike basketball where timeouts happen at any time during their game play, the football’s clock will continue to run even a whistle and a penalty (red or yellow) card has been raised. Not to mention, our holding of spotlight to national football didn’t last in the sporting psyche when Gilas Pilipinas became resurgent in 2013.
  • Broadcasting dilemma. Upon their inception in 2009, no broadcaster seems to care about football until the Hanoi happening. Beginning in the 2012 season, the UFL was brought up on AKTV on IBC until their non-renewal on May 31, 2013 and it was transferred to AksyonTV. During the coverage, criticism ranging from delays and signal reception to sportscasting mismanagement made Manny V. Pangilinan’s venture very hurtful.
This, in order to form a true national football league, a feasibility study was conducted in 2013 by local and international representatives. Two years later, Nielsen made a market research studies to determine the possible cities or regions where participating football clubs can be based, as well as assisting clubs in the Philippines to conform to AFC club licensing regulations. They identified 13 localities.

Competition format

The PFL’s preliminary competition will follow a home-and-away, double round-robin format. The system of promotion relegation will be determined after the said round for all encompassed divisions.
The top four teams — which is determined based on the FIFA sanctioned points system — will advance to the play-off round dubbed as the “Finals Series” to determine the champions of the league. A knockout cup competition will also be contested between the PFL’s participating clubs, with matches interspersed within the league schedule.

The inaugural game plan

For now, the inaugural season will play in one division with eight (8) approved teams and their respective stadiums:
  • The three teams hail from Metro Manila:
    • FC Meralco Manila (formerly Loyola Meralco Sparks FC)* in Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila,
    • Kaya FC-Makati* in University of Makati Stadium, and
    • JPV Marikina* in Marikina Sports Complex
  • Two will come from Luzon:
    • Ilocos United in Quirino Stadium, Bantay, Ilocos Sur, and
    • Stallion Laguna* in Biñan Football Stadium
  • Two will represent from Visayas:
    • Ceres-Negros* in Panaad Stadium in Bacolod, and
    • Global Cebu* in University of San Carlos Stadium, Cebu City
  • One will delegate from Mindanao: Davao Aguilas in Davao del Norte Sports Complex, Tagum


*Team carried over from UFL

An unlikely broadcaster for a prospective pro league

Last April 12, People’s Television (PTV) inked the exclusive deal with the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) on the new league. Their live kick-off time will be on weekends, 4-6 p.m. in order not to clash and cross with the network’s sacred hour of 9:00 p.m. where the daily Lotto draw and the K-drama The Legendary Doctor (Hur Jun) is currently airing.
Aside from live match, delayed telecasts and highlights will be showcased as well. That said, two hours on Saturday that are formerly of infomercials will help lessen their notion of slack and more on potential revenue in Visayas Avenue. However, on its the Sunday iteration, the cultural show in conflict, Sagisag Kultura, should find a new time slot.

The inaugural weekend games:

  • Saturday, May 6:
    • 4:00 p.m. (LIVE): Kaya Makati F.C. vs Ceres Negros FC
    • 7:00 p.m.: Stallion Laguna FC vs FC Meralco Manila
  • Sunday, May 7:
    • 4:00 p.m. (LIVE): Ilocos United FC vs Davao Aguilas FC
    • 7:00 p.m.: JPV Marikina vs Global Cebu FC

A double-edged insight

The positive insight over this sportscast is that Azkals might get a new exclusive broadcast deal with Channel 4.
Their former broadcaster, ABS-CBN Sports weren’t able to cover recent Azkals matches due to overloaded and prioritized sportscasting commitments from NBA, UAAP, NCAA and ABL on S+A. Hence, no more room for national football.
For there is one side of the coin, there will definitely be the other side to tackle.
Critics and objective supporters have already known PTV’s unpredictability; the league’s playing time could be interrupted for President Rodrigo Duterte’s long, off-scripted and outlandish speaking engagements. That said, it could doubt the longevity and renewal of covering the beautiful game in the future. If that happens, there might be a chance for MVP to make his Sports5 great again but then, it might go through their exclusive cable channel Hyper just like when he saved WWE from Fox Channel Asia’s unexpected withdrawal due to unpaid carriage fees this closing month.
Nonetheless, we wish them the very best of their sportscast and hopefully, let’s all enjoy the game.
Photo credits: Philippine Football Federation / United Football League / Wikimedia Commons

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