TMJ, One-on-One: Cash for clubs, youth development and the need for Malaysians to stay patient

In the final part of our exclusive chat, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim told FourFourTwo of his experiences as Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president so far and called for patience from the fans, saying Malaysia are unlikely to get results in the near future.

Having been FAM’s biggest critic over the past five years, the Crown Prince of Johor took charge of the national body himself in March 2017.

Tunku Ismail, who also owns Malaysian giants Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), previously had a run at the presidency in 2014, but Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah prevailed in what was a closely contested election that required a second round of voting after the first did not meet the two-thirds majority required.

The positive thing is that FAM is getting used to my style and rhythm of working. The sense of direction is improving

This time around, the affiliates pleaded for Tunku Ismail to become president after Tengku Abdullah threw in the towel following Malaysia’s 10-0 defeat to United Arab Emirates in September 2015.

The five-star hotel in Petaling Jaya that hosted the FAM’s annual general meeting was buzzing when Tunku Ismail officially became president and went up a few notches when the new supremo walked in after the 2017-2021 line-up was announced.

Things moved at a faster pace. Almost immediately he announced changes to the coaching set-up, ordered an audit into the accounts and promised to get the national body in order. That very week, a restructuring process resulted in 20 staff losing their jobs.

Tunku Ismail admitted the FAM are yet to operate like a well-oiled machine, but just as the national body is getting accustomed to the new leader, he too is growing into the position.

TMJ on the day he was introduced as FAM president

“It’s a walk in the park. Well, I mean tough in a way … somewhere in the middle to be honest,” Tunku Ismail told FourFourTwo.

“The positive thing is that FAM is getting used to my style and rhythm of working. The sense of direction is improving as they know where I’m going and what I like.

Not a single cent from the new television deal will go to FAM. Some even asked if I was serious

"But there are still a few people in FAM that need to work harder and play a bigger role.

“Some only like to be in the newspapers but have no football knowledge. So these are what I have to deal with compared to JDT, where many football people are involved.”

Finances have been a hot topic since Tunku Ismail took over. Shortly after his tenure began, he revealed that FAM were short of RM40million to balance the books.

Talks are currently underway with broadcasters and a big-money deal is expected to be signed ahead of the 2018 season. According to Tunku Ismail, more investors are looking to pump money into Malaysian football.

“We are planning and opening doors to potential sponsors. I was told that since I became president, more are willing to become partners because they trust that the money will be utilised correctly to benefit football.

“Not a single cent from the new television deal will go to FAM. Some even asked if I was serious. For FAM, we will commercialise the national team and work on other ways in bringing money in,” he said.

FORGET ANY INTERNATIONAL QUICK-FIX

Despite the reported interest, commercialising Harimau Malaya is no easy task.

Having this week dropped to No.170 in the FIFA World Rankings, Malaysia need to improve and build an attractive brand. It’s a no brainer that success attracts numbers, something Tunku Ismail has achieved with his Southern Tigers.

[NEXT: Tunku Ismail's assessment of Vingada]