Football: Revamp of Malaysian domestic games will also target match-fixing and hooliganism

Malaysian football fans throw flares onto the pitch during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying football match between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia in Shah Alam on Sept 8, 2015.
Malaysian football fans throw flares onto the pitch during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying football match between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia in Shah Alam on Sept 8, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE (AFP) - A new Malaysian football body will launch a drive to stamp out match-fixing and hooliganism when it takes over the running of domestic competitions next year, its chief executive said.

Malaysian soccer has been repeatedly hit by scandal, most recently last week when flare-throwing fans brought a World Cup qualifier with Saudi Arabia to a halt.

But Football Malaysia's CEO Kevin Ramalingam said a reorganisation and a lucrative new TV deal could be the start of a new era, comparing it to the English Premier League's advent in 1992.

Football Malaysia will operate the country's top two divisions and cup competitions from January, in a set-up similar to the Premier League and Germany's Bundesliga.

The new TV rights deal with sports media company MP and Silva guarantees a minimum of US$297 million (S$415 million) over 15 years - double what was previously earned.

"I see it as a starting point," Ramalingam said on the sidelines of the Sports Matters conference in Singapore.

"I think we're at a position that's very exciting in terms of what lies ahead... This is the first year of the EPL in that sense."

However, Ramalingam said domestic football needed an image boost if it wanted TV income to rise still further, with eradicating match-fixing high on the list.

Football Malaysia will use betting tracking systems and life bans to crack down on corruption, while also warning players that games are under ever closer scrutiny.

He added that Football Malaysia would also try to stop hooliganism before it happens by monitoring social networks and talking to fans to calm their frustrations.