Is there a CPL 2 Crisis?

With BMC now fully dropped out of the next season and only four CPL 2 clubs taking part in the 2023 Cambodian League Cup, does this mean there is a CPL 2 crisis related to cash?
With BMC now fully dropped out of the next season and only four CPL 2 clubs taking part in the 2023 Cambodian League Cup, does this mean there is a CPL 2 crisis related to cash?

With BMC now fully dropped out of the next season and only four CPL 2 clubs taking part in the 2023 Cambodian League Cup, does this mean there is a CPL 2 crisis related to cash?

To read about the 2023 Cambodian League Cup click here

Where did the talk of a CPL 2 crisis come from?

The questions were actually asked by a Khmer language news website, but in fairness they are not exactly new questions either, with our publication and me in particular pointing out the financial difficulties faced by the clubs at the bottom of the pyramid.

 You can read the Khmer article here.

What the new article implies though is that four clubs, as in three more might still drop out before the season begins. Whilst the clubs are not mentioned, it is assumed to include Tbong Knom, Siem Reap FC, as well as Next Step – the 9th, 10th and 11 places teams respectively, although it could also include high-flying clubs such as Asia Euro Un8ted, whose owner has previously been keen to get shot of the club.

As for the likelihood of clubs dropping out of CPL 2, it really is hard to say precisely as clubs, in general tend not to shout out about their problems, although many have complained privately about the lack of financial support from the league.

That only four of the nine available clubs could afford to take part in the league cup is also fairly telling, particularly as it means going almost eight months without truly competitive football. 

To see the 2022 CPL 2 table click here

CPL 2 Crisis, what do we know about the bottom clubs?

At 11th place last year the obvious prediction for financial problems would be Next Step FC, a club who notably struggled both on and off the pitch last year, but according to Coach Charlie Pomroy, not only are the club now financially stable, but aim are looking towards the top rather than the bottom of the table next season, with Pomroy telling us “Everyone knows we struggled last year, but that was more down to us not having enough time to prepare, let alone find sponsors for a new league that people knew nothing about. As things stand we now have investment and feel we can challenge for promotion in 2023-24, rather than be at the bottom. 

Siem Reap FC are also not in dire straits, at least not yet, but with the addition of big spending Siem Reap United within the next two years, along with their super stadium, there is definitely a chance that the Siem Reap market could become saturated.

Which brings us to another elephant in the room, what is the future for Soltilo Angkor FC, the former plaything of part-time national coach Honda. With him no longer involved in Cambodian football, will he still have the energy to bankroll a team that he promised so much for, but one end has delivered so little.

CPL 2 Crisis – What will happen if clubs do drop out?

The plan before BMC dropped out was to have two divisions of 10 clubs each, this was to be achieved by expanding the top-tier by two clubs, while reducing the second division by two.

As things currently.stand we now have 9 clubs in the second division, yet whilst it is not ideal to have odd numbers, we should also remember that the old C-League  had 13 clubs during its final season as the Cambodian top division.

The problem though would arise if three, or even four further clubs were to drop out of the division, Of the course CPL cannot realistically in good faith relegate clubs it has already offered promotion, but in the same vein it cannot also field a second-tier with just six clubs.

Could the CPL 2 Crisis be solved with expansion?

In short yes it could, with major areas such as Sihanoukville, Kampot and now Poipet all without a professional representative, despite the wish of CPL CEO Satoshi wishing for a “club in every province”.

To read our interview with Satoshi click here.

The problem is though that despite the CPL largely being a success on the field, it was not a complete success of it, with no TV deal, as well as no main money giving sponsor the league. Yes it was nice of companies such as Panasonic to give away microwaves, but alas these do not pay the bills. 

This has meant that while some clubs are now receiving external investment, there are also not rich benefactors looking to start clubs from scratch.

How CPL 2 could innovate

There are though a few ways in which the CPL 2 crisis could be averted, although this can only happen if the FFC and CPL are prepared to be brave and innovate. 

One of these would be to allow top -flight clubs to field their reserve teams in the second-tier, much like they do in Spain, with the rules being that these clubs could not be promoted. This might not be popular with everyone, but again if we are honest it is already happening at Prey Veng FC.

Another and following on from the Prey Veng model would be for each CPL club to be forced to twin with a team in CPL 2. This would have multiple benefits, not least giving young players more game time, something distinctly lacking in the absence of a reserve league. 

And lastly an idea that probably has the least chance of happening, but would probably be the easiest fix would be to allow expat teams, such as Real Phnom Penh, or even foreign teams from countries such as China to field teams in CPL 2. Again an idea not nearly as whacky as it sounds, with both the Singaporean and Hong Kong leagues both experimenting with similar concepts, to varying success levels previously. 

But, of course as of now this is all just conjecture, for bone of us know quite what will happen between the League Cup, SEA Games and the actual start of the Cambodian Premier League season in the summer.

This article is adapted from BPVE SPORT Cambodia, reported and edited from the great team – Cambodia Sports Review.


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