Why CPL 2 Should Not Be Scrapped


After just one season of CPL 2 the league are considering dropping the second tier competition and consolidating into one division. Why though might this be happening and is it good for is it good for Khmer Football.

The origins of CPL 2

Prior to its 2022 rebranding as part of the new Cambodian Premier League the local pyramid consisted of the top division and a much smaller and hardly covered Cambodian Second Division. This incarnation not only played few games, but received scant coverage and did not offer automatic promotion.

This all changed in 2022 when CPL CEO Satoshi rebranded the league as CPL2, as well as increasing the league as a whole to 20 clubs from 13, as part of his plans for a “club in every province”.

This split the league into an 8 team CPL 1 and a 12 team CPL 2, made up of the 5 relegated division one teams, the old second division clubs, as well as new entities such as Next Step FC.

Football wise the competition was a huge success, with a tight championship race, great media coverage and enough quality to warrant an awards ceremony at the end of the season.  Sadly though things off the pitch were far less rosy.

To read about the CPL awards lick here

CPL 2 as an afterthought

So while adding 7 teams to the top echelons of Khmer football was a bold and exciting move, it sadly did not seem to take into account the finical realities of football within Cambodia. Most clubs do not earn significant money from spectators, or merchandise meaning those without rich benefactors quite simply need support if they are to survive.

Sadly though neither the CPL nor the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) stepped up t over this shortfall, with fund provided to clubs being woefully inadequate to even cover travel.

Why did the CPL not pay enough? Because it also was not generating nearly enough money. Grand plans for sponsors to pay up to $3 million per year were not achieved, while’s those that did partner seemed to pay “in kind”. Prizes like new microwaves and motorbikes might have been nice for players, but club bills they did not pay.

To read our interview with Satoshi click here

Clubs aren’t earning money right now

The strain has already led to at least one team quitting the league, while others teeter on the brink, in large part due to the prolonged pre-season brought about by the reorganization of the league.

Cambodia has rightly decided to shift to a European style season, but instead of following the model adopted by other leagues within the region has instead gone for a one season shock therapy approach. This has meant that clubs have been given the choice of either taking part in the money losing League Cup (which offers no prize fund), or going 8 months without football and thus not having any recourse to earn money.

The huge effects of this has had cannot be underestimated with big clubs such as Angkor Tiger releasing players rather than paying them not to pay and clubs struggling to find sponsors. Cambodian football is for all intents stuck in limbo meaning that sponsors either do not want to commit to a product that does not exist, but also that clubs who do accept money are at risk of being ion breach of contract if they do not end up part of a league,. Quite simply raising money during the current stays due is almost impossible,  

Why CPL 2 should not be dropped

With all this in mind the arguments for one division are obviously compelling, with clubs playing more matches against bigger clubs, theoretically earning more money and smaller clubs conveniently “disappearing”.

Going down this route though would not only be huge mistake, but also a severe backwards step for Cambodian football. The CPL 2 while not perfect in any way shape, or form achieved a lot of good.

Firstly the league helped launches a number of new clubs, to varying levels of sauces as well in new areas, such as Koh Kong, but more importantly also allowed for player development.

With Cambodia not having a national reserve or youth league players were previously restricted to being squad players and not playing, or simply quitting football. The second tier did exactly what it was supposed to, get players playing and thus developing. Without it, or a national reserve league how will players compete and  develop?

Investors will lose confidence

Perhaps most importantly though is that if clubs are forced out of existence, or worse not told until the last minute that there will not be a league then the new CPL brand will lose the confidence of the all too important people with the money.

Cambodian football is a product like any other and if it as viewed as a weak one or not reliable then people will simply choose another one.

Rich refactors simply do not exist and talk of raising money from sponsorship has simply not happened. The pure reality check is this, if the CPL do not look after existing stakeholders then the league will not only never achieve success, but much like the Honda era will leave the country in a worse state that it was in to begin with.

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


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