Laos football in disarray after slew of lifetime bans for match fixing

Football in Laos is on the verge of complete disintegration, headlined by 15 current or former players being banned for life on Wednesday over their role in match-fixing.

Added to the turmoil, the defending league champion, Lanexang, have disbanded their team and a whole raft of conflict of interest and governance concerns continue to dog the Lao Football Federation.

The league itself is in a shambolic state after the vast majority of clubs withdrew from the competition over the past six-to-eight weeks

In addition to the Lao individuals, two Cambodians were also banned for life but it’s in the ‘land of a million elephants’ where crooks, mafia and those with vested interests in positions of high power continue to trample untrammelled across the footballing landscape whilst the players are the ones banned.

After four players were provisionally suspended over match-fixing claims stemming from November’s Solidarity Cup the remainder were handed life bans on Wednesday, with the bulk of those coming from one of the nation’s leading clubs, Lao Toyota.

There are also troubling links between the nation’s governing body and Lao Toyota, with questions raised over why the federation itself and the club currently aren’t subject to sanctions.

The club’s chairman, Pasatxay Philaphandeth, is also the acting president of the LFF in a clear conflict of interest that one source inside Laos told FourFourTwo would not be allowed to happen “anywhere in the rest of the world”.

Several of those individuals banned are from a club, NUOL, which was formed by the just LFF last season.

It’s understood there is also a revolt brewing amongst the nation’s refereeing fraternity, with match officials still awaiting payment for last season and close to withdrawing their services in protest.

The league itself is also in a shambolic state after the vast majority of clubs withdrew from the competition over the past six-to-eight weeks.

EDL, who finished fourth last season, withdrew earlier this year, prompting more than half a dozen other clubs to follow suit, including the lone genuinely professional club, Lanexang.

There are now genuine fears over which – and how many – clubs will comprise the new season, if and when it commences.

So dire has the situation become the LFF is advertising via Facebook for any clubs to ‘express interest’ in joining the new league with virtually anyone off the street likely to be welcomed should they manage to organise themselves in time.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, it’s also understood there is an audit underway into the LFF’s hosting arrangements and financial activities

It’s understood no-one from the LFF contacted Lanexang over their decision to withdraw and they are seemingly happy to let a team which finished as runners-up in this year’s Mekong Cup – and who had invested more than US$15 million in infrastructure – to simply fade into history.

In addition to the referees going unpaid it’s also understood that Lanexang have not yet received their prize money for winning the league last season.

Moreover, in a bizarre state of events, their prize money from the Mekong Cup is also being ‘held’ by the LFF.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, it’s also understood there is an audit underway into the LFF’s hosting arrangements and financial activities during that same competition.

Whilst the AFC should be commended for continuing their fight against match-fixing, it’s apparent that many of the issues that are plaguing Lao football stem from those at the top of the chain and need to be addressed.

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