In March 2022, Cambodia Investment Review ran a story on Next Step FC, the newest club to enter professional football in Cambodia, but six months on how have they fared both on and off the pitch?
To read more about the Next Step FC click here.
While boasting a 13-team league that was semi-professional/professional Cambodian football was for all intents rebooted in 2022 with the appointment of Satoshi Saito as CEO of the newly rebranded Cambodian Premier League.
Initial plans were grand, to say the least, with aims to increase income from around $500,000 a year to $3 million, as well as increase the number of clubs from 13 to 20.
Yet while the increase in clubs and its split into two divisions has on the face of it at least been a success, the failure to sell television rights, lack of transparency around sponsorship and the perceived lack of support for the smaller clubs have raised some eyebrows among stakeholders.
To read more about the Cambodian Premier League’s aim to raise $3 million in sponsorship click here.
Cambodian Football enters a new professional era
Not unlike any other country in the world football in Cambodia is about economies of scale. Top clubs such as Visakha FC have budgets that can into the millions of dollars. These top clubs are often supported by rich benefactors, meaning profits come second to results, a luxury not available to those at the bottom of the pyramid.
A sentiment echoed by Conor Nestor head coach of current table toppers Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC who told Cambodia Investment Review: “I’m extremely grateful for the relationship I have with my bosses and our owner. We have been able to grow the club on and off the field so that now everyone in the technical department has a 100% focus on football. As a head coach that’s really all you can ask for.”
The lack of this luxury has so far at least adversely affected those clubs at the bottom. As things stand there is no money coming for TV rights and as of now there is not one official sponsor of the league and the money that it would bring to clubs.
This means less cash for the Cambodian Premier League and thus less revenue it can distribute to clubs, leaving sponsorship, or rich benefactors as the only feasible route to success or even survival.
As with any sporting endeavor, there have been highs and lows both professionally and financially. Top player Bruno arguably scored the goal of the season, but stats don’t lie and the club currently sit second bottom of the league on just 6 points. Financially things have also not fared much better.
According to Charlie Pomroy owner and head coach of Next Step FC costs to run the club and the legal entity at a bare minimum are $2,500 per month, although this figure excludes paying anyone a salary.
If salaries were to be paid this would rise to around $4,500 a month, although without any extra recourse for bringing in revenue.
“The league pays us $500 per home game and $550 for each away game, usually two months in arrears. With the cost of renting the stadium and transport to matches even in a busy month, it is impossible to break even without sponsors or benefactors. Ideally and in most leagues, there is a collective TV rights deal, but this has yet to happen with the CPL, despite all the talk,” Charlie added.
How have Next Step FC fared over the last six months?
As things stand he estimates that after sponsorship and incomes are taken into account, the club would be about $6,000 in the red by the end of the season in December, which while it might sound a lot is a relative pittance in football terms.
“After we first hit the media we had one Khmer businessman who took an interest in us and he has been very generous as he believes in our mission. We have also managed to attract outside sponsorship from Young Pioneer Tours and Z1 Financial, which has helped a lot,” Charlie said.
To read more about Z1 Financial click here.
This though was as of yet not enough, with Coach Charlie adding: “In football terms, $6,000 of debt is not all that much. If we were to manage to sell either streaming rights, or get further sponsorship then we would be more than financially viable,” Charlie added.
The long-term aims of the club were about far more than just mere survival though with Charlie adding: “For now we just want enough to break even, but more money creates more potential. In the short to long term we want to be challenging not just for promotion, but for the title”.
And how much would it cost to be champions of Cambodia? “With $72,000 a year, we can survive. For $200,000 I believe I could get promotion. Raise that to $500,000 and we’d be champions of Cambodia within three years,” Charlie said.
The question is whether any rich benefactor is willing to take a risk on Charlie and Next Step FC.